DESERT VOICES for Midi Violin, Digital Processor, and Recorded Sounds, 1999.  DVD Version: 2014

Duration: 21:36 - Live Performance     24:32 - DVD version

Performance practicality: If artist has a midi violin and digital processor similar to the Yamaha SPX-1000: 100% for mp3 sounds on Quicktime or other player and directions in score.  Somewhat more difficult if video is used, due to practicality of screen and projector set-up. DESERT VOICES is a song of many tongues, and the listener will hear the song as one would see the western American desert: the vast flat windy dry plain spreading to the horizon, with sharp jagged events— bluffs, violin entrances, cactus spikes, giant rocks bursting upon one’s vision as in a dream…The calling voices of canyon wrens, black cardinals, ravens, a much-alarmed gopher snake, crickets and other wildlife mingling with the pulsating Australian didgeridoo, and soft ghostly chants of the resident Navajos speaking their own thoughts, with the wind ever encircling all and breathing of the intense beauty and eternity that is the desert.

Jonathan Aceto adds the thriving human spirit through his five-stringed Zeta midi violin, commenting upon these voices and creating its own, from the wild bestial squeals to the poignant evolving melody that weaves throughout the piece.  The midi violin uses the Yamaha SPX-1000 digital processor with its delays, pitch shifts, and reverberation to create a choir of string sounds, and the piece becomes a concerto at times, while at other times the midi violin fades into the background recorded music.  The recorded sounds on CD have been composed by Priscilla McLean from an interactive audience multimedia installation called DESERT SPRING, premiered at the University of Arizona, Flagstaff and used also for DESERT VOICES. Jonathan Aceto gave its premiere performance at the Clark Art Museum, Williamstown, MA on July 6, 1999, and has performed it since several times, recently including his own desert images in a slide show.  Priscilla McLean improvised a slide show for the premiere, and several years later incorporated them into a video, which is now also available for any midi violinist for performance.

Recorded sounds include voices of two Navajo students from the university— Evelina Yazzie, who spoke-whispered in her language her feelings about the desert, and Malcolm Benali, who reads his poem “Corn Pollen Path”.  These voices have been sampled and used in choir effects throughout the piece. Other sounds heard are Brendan Dickie on the didgeridoo. desert creatures recorded at Organpipe National Monument, AZ and Arches National Park, UT— canyon swallows, American bitterns, puff adder snake, and distant coyotes.  Other instruments include bicycle wheel spokes bowed with violin bows, digital synthesizers, and several small instruments.  Slides photographed by Priscilla McLean are from Organpipe National Monument, Arches National Park, the Phoenix Botanical Gardens, and the Superstition Mountains in Tempe, AZ.  These slides have been resized and adapted for video.

DESERT VOICES is available on a “Cries and Echoes” DVD, available through MLC Publications, 55 Coon Brook Rd., Petersburgh, NY 12138 (
Desert Voices on YouTube