These days, with preparations for the Sounds of the Desert (Tzlilim BaMidbar) Festival preparations in full swing, one can reach composer Michael Volpe only late at night. "Sorry," he apologizes, speaking at midnight from his home at Kibbutz Sde Boker. "We were rehearsing and something unexpected popped up." So how's it going? "Well, you know, when Mendelsohnn wrote his trio, he decided not to write trios anymore," Volpe jokes. Is this Volpe's way of saying that the annual festival has been a huge success? Exactly. "Each time people come out so happy that I am afraid to let them down the next year," says Volpe, the festival's artistic director. Sounds of the Desert will be held this time around December 22 to 24 at Kibbutz Sde Boker. It's the eighth time the festival has been held. Small as it is, Israel too has its music center - undisputedly Tel Aviv - and its periphery. This was the idea that led Volpe, a composer and musical educator, to found the festival. At each festival he makes it a point to reveal young local talents, to present Israeli music in new arrangements and to introduce to the audience pieces by local composers which have never been performed before. This year is dedicated to symphonic music. The opening evening features pieces by Alexander Uriyah Boskovich, a pioneer of Israeli music. The highlight of the evening will be the premier of Boskovich's Violin Concerto, with Vera Veidman as a soloist. Highlights include Mongolian vocal music, Volpe's Memories from the Seven Days, and a Jewish-Arab Youth Orchestra concert. "Not by chance we have included a concert with Eviatar Banai," concludes Volpe. "In my vision, this young Israeli musician has a lot in common with Boskovich in his approach to Mediterranean music and the way he makes the West and the East meet." As usual, there will be quite a few "open stage" rehearsals with free admission for the public.The festival also offers guided tours through the area. For information and reservations, call (08) 656-4162/1 or visit www.Habama.co.il.