This hour-long work, commissioned by West German Radio and the Brooklyn Academy of Music, marks a transitional period for Reich. Based in the rhythmic pulse of Music for 18 Musicians, he adds a text by William Carlos Williams (sung by a full chorus), uses the more traditional sounds of a full orchestra (strings and brass are suddenly prominent), and snatches of melody dot the musical canvas here and there. The use of vocals here looks forward to such projects as Different Trains and The Cave. If Reich is trying to encapsulate the grandeur of the American west without falling back on typical "Western" tropes, he does so successfully.
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AllMusic Review by Ted Mills
|The Desert Music, for small chorus & large orchestra|