Ancient Desert Drone

From Wind Repertory Project
Henry Cowell

Henry Cowell (ed. James Worman)

General Info

Year: 1940 / 1943 / 2014
Duration: c. 4:50
Difficulty: V (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Orchestra
Publisher: G Schirmer
Cost: Score and Parts (print) - $85.00; (digital) - $85.00   |   Score Only (print) - $10.00


Full Score
C Piccolo
Flute I-II-III
Oboe I-II
English Horn
Bassoon I-II
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III-IV
B-flat Bass Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Saxophone
E-flat Alto Saxophone I-II
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II
Bass Trombone
String Bass
Percussion I-II-III-IV-V, including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Bells
  • Bongos
  • Crash Cymbals
  • Finger Cymbals
  • Marimba
  • Snare Drum
  • Suspended Cymbals (2)
  • Tambourine
  • Tam-Tam
  • Toms (2)
  • Triangle
  • Vibraphone
  • Xylophone


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

This interesting work was originally composed for orchestra in 1940 at the request of Percy Grainger, to whom the piece is dedicated. Grainger also conducted the first complete performance of the composition in early 1941. Cowell and Grainger were friends, sharing a musical relationship based on curiosity, inventiveness, and a restless discontent with the status quo.

Program notes from a 1948 performance give insight into the work: “The monotonous droning bass and primitive rhythms . . . intensify the Eastern charm and transport us in imagination to the Arabian desert where we see a caravan of merchants traveling wearily to exhibit and trade their wares at a Baghdad Festival.” While the title and melodic material may certainly evoke this image, Cowell, however, offered this assessment: “If anyone cares to use Ancient Desert as a point of departure, they are welcome to do so, but the composer did not have a program in mind when he composed this work . . . there is not much to say except that the note D is used as a drone.”

- Program Note from The Instrumentalist


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • Trinity University (San Antonio, Tx.) Symphonic Wind Ensemble (James Worman, conductor) - 10 February 2023

Works for Winds by This Composer


  • Cowell, H.; Worman, J. (1943, 2014). Ancient Desert Drone: For Wind Band [score]. G. Schirmer: New York.
  • "New Music Reviews." The Instrumentalist. September 2017, 38. Print.