The orchestra consists of two groups:
Winds-flute doubling piccolo, piccolo clarinet, 3 horns, a tenor and a bass trombone.
Percussion-several performers playing sleigh bells, cymbals, crash cymbals, rattles, triangle, anvil, slapstick, Chinese blocks, tam-tam, Indian drum, snare drum, bass drum, tambourine, siren, a lion’s roar (a tub with a hole in the bottom through which the player pulls a rope).
Of interest is the use of non traditional sound sources such as the lion’s roar and siren. The influence of Busoni and Russolo obvious in the choice of instruments.
A trombone solo near the end shows a jazz influence.
The ensemble consists of 13 musicians playing a total of 37 percussion instruments, including:
2 sirens (1 low and 1 high pitched), 2 tam-tams, ditto, gong, crash cymbals, 3 different sized bass drums, bongos, snare drums, guiros, slap-sticks, chinese blocks (3 registers), Cuban claves, triangle, maracas, sleigh bells, castanets, tambourine, anvils (2 registers), chimes, celesta and piano.
Ionisation is the work most often associated with Varése.
Poeme Electronique (1958)
Produced for the Philips Radio Corporation pavilion at the Brussels Exposition.
Played through 450 speakers. It was 480 seconds long. Projected images such as photographs, paintings, montages, printed and written scripts accompanied the music, a true multi-media event.
Varése rejected the term music concrete as a description of the work. it was a montage of both found sounds and synthetic creation. It was referred to as ‘Organized Sound’.
This is the 5th Symphony of electronic music. The defining work that caught the attention of the world and propelled future composers to take electronic music as a bona-fide form of music.
2 flute, 2 clarinets, 2 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, bass tuba, contra bass tuba, piano, percussion, 2 magnetic tapes of electronic organized sounds transmitted on two channels.
A combination of two medias, instrumental and electronic sounds.
The title Deserts, suggested to Varése not only, “all physical deserts (of sand, sea, snow, of outer space, of empty streets), but also the deserts in the mind of man; not only those stripped aspects of nature that suggest bareness, aloofness, timelessness, but also that remote inner space no telescope can reach, where man is alone, a world of mystery and essential loneliness.” from the liner notes of The Varése Album, Columbia records, NY.