Ballroom Marfa Art Fund
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The Marfa Triptych: The Desert

4 Oct 2014


The Overlook at Mimms Ranch
Marfa, Texas


Austin-based composer Graham Reynolds returned to Marfa in 2014 to perform the second installment of The Marfa Triptych, three musical portraits of West Texas, commissioned by Ballroom Marfa. While the first and last pieces in the Triptych examine people and their place in this part of the world, The Desert focused on the natural world and the landscape here in the Chihuahuan Desert.

The Desert was a solo performance for layered piano, a production that used means both digital and site-specific to process the acoustic instrument’s sounds. The piece was performed outdoors at the Overlook at Mimms Ranch, where Reynolds scored the moon rising and the sun setting.

About The Marfa Triptych

The Marfa Triptych is three portraits of West Texas as envisioned by Austin-based composer Graham Reynolds, inspired by Reynolds’ interest in the intermingled populations of the Texas-Mexico border regions, from ejido to ranch to the visual arts community.

The first installment in The Marfa TriptychThe Country & Western Big Band Suite, was performed in November 2013 at the Crowley Theater in Marfa, Texas. An instrumental suite for 13 players, Reynolds described the piece as “classic instrumental country meets Western soundtrack meets power jazz rhythm section.” Vogue called it “beautiful and raucous.”

Reynolds performed The Desert among an intimate audience of 60 at the Overlook at Mimms Ranch in Marfa, Texas. Reynolds played acoustic piano and various percussion instruments as the sun set and the moon rose.

The final piece in the TriptychPancho Villa From a Safe Distance, is an experimental chamber opera for two singers and six instrumentalists using a hybrid of compositional techniques, including looping and sampling, overdubbed layers of vocals, improvisation mixed with notation, remixes by Mexican electronic artists, and devised theater staging and conception practices. A culmination of the themes developed in the first two sections, Pancho Villa reflects the Mexican and Mexican-American impact on the region, the permeability of borders, and the limitations of our concept of delineated states.

Artist Profile

Graham Reynolds

Called “the quintessential modern composer” by the London IndependentGraham Reynolds composes and records music for film, theater and performance with collaborators ranging from Richard Linklater and Jack Black to DJ Spooky and Ballet Austin. His film projects include scores for Before MidnightBernie, and A Scanner Darkly. With the Golden Arm Trio, Reynolds has toured the country and released four critically acclaimed albums; he is Artistic Director of Golden Hornet Composer Laboratory, which has produced over 70 concerts by more than 60 contemporary composers. He is a member of the Rude Mechs theater collective, resident composer with Salvage Vanguard Theater, and received the 2016 Creative Capital Award for the Pancho Villa chamber opera.


Film by Rob Crowley.