I’m thinking about a road trip to the deserts of Lone Pine, California. It’s a small town, but one of the most famous movie locations on Earth. Practically every western produced during Hollywood’s golden age was filmed there. Hundreds of them. In fact, every passenger arriving at the International Terminal in Los Angeles is greeted with a gigantic panoramic photo wall of that landscape, the Alabama Hills above Lone Pine.
Many years ago, my wife and I stopped at a rest area there, and I distinctly remember listening to juniper leaves tinkling musically, like gold foil, above our heads. The fluttering leaves in the breeze, the trickle of a nearby stream gave a background score to our rest. It wasn‘t the sound of silence. It was the sound of stillness, of peace. I had begun a self conversation, trying to find a musical analogy to what seemed to me as the unique spirit of desert places. There is a certain resemblance between the music of Bach and the sea. The music of Debussy resembles a forest glade. The music of Beethoven reminds me of great mountains. But what is the music of the desert?
Mozart? Nope, he wasn’t the outdoor type, much too elegant, symmetrical, formally perfect. Vivaldi, Corelli, Monteverdi? No, they resembled cathedral interiors. And jazz just wouldn’t work at all. It’s too confined to its origin. It is indoor music, city music, and it reminded me of dark smoky nightclubs.
I decided that the desert reminds me of the music of Joaquin Rodrigo, specifically his Concierto de Aranjuez. This music has the flavor and remoteness, the mystery and strangeness of the desert. It is cruel and romantic, a paradox, both agonized and deeply still. Sort of like death, I suppose. Maybe that’s why I love the desert. Nowhere does life seem so brave, so full of miracles, as it does in the desert.
For those that prefer a more modern interpretation: