So it goes.


Title: So it goes.
Year: 2008
Category: ensemble with voice
Instrumentation: fl,cl(,perc(1),2pf,tenor(sp.voice),sp.voice
Duration: 13′
First performance: Chimera Ensemble (cond. Benjamin Gait) | Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, York, UK | 12/12/2008
Publisher: contact me

Programme note

When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in bad condition in the particular moment, but that the same person is just fine in plenty of other moments. Now, when I myself hear that somebody is dead, I simply shrug and say what the Tralfamadorians say about dead people, which is “So it goes.”

Slaughterhouse Five, Chapter II, Kurt Vonnegut

This piece takes as its inspiration Kurt Vonnegut’s 1969 novel Slaughterhouse Five. Surreal and post-modern, the novel sees its main character, Billy Pilgrim moving back and forth in time to different moments of his life: or to be more accurate, moving freely in the 4th dimension, experiencing different points of his life in a random order. He is ‘unstuck in time’ much like the Tralfamadorians who abduct him and place him and a fellow human in a zoo on Tralfamadore.

Whilst the work is clearly an anti-war novel, it is not this that I took inspiration from, preferring to take the structure as a starting point. The freedom with which Vonnegut uses time and place gives the novel vastly contrasting sections juxtaposed against one another yet continuing a constant theme and feeling. This I have used to structure the piece.

The text comes from different parts of the novel cut up and spliced back together, taking the idea of ‘confused’ structure one stage further. The main speaker takes on the role of Billy from the novel, whilst another voice interjects occasionally with a counterpart and answers to Billy. The music is based on two symmetrical chords and the resulting scale, and makes use of motifs that are juxtaposed, repeated and combined.