SATB (2005)

Written for Sospiro, the texts for this set all come from Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man. The text for “The sea is calm tonight” is actually a fragment from "Dover Beach” by Matthew Arnold, which Bester quotes in a bizarre shape. The jumbling of words that results is mirrored in the text's polyphonic setting, which allows words and phrases to overlap, creating new meanings. The relentless churning of the ocean is also illustrated by the movement's form: at the end the opening phrases return, but stirred up and switched about, as by the rotation of waves.

The central movement, “Tension Apprehension and Dissention”, sets what might be considered the “theme song” of the novel. The protagonist keeps this catchy ditty running through his head in order to mask his thoughts. However, the song ends up accompanying him in his descent into madness. The traditional process of fugue is used to show the ever increasing pressure and craziness of the character's situation. The constant counting, “Eight, sir: Seven, sir…”, portrays the maddening speed and confusion of modern existence.

The text for the final piece, “The truth you cannot see,” is taken from the very end of the novel. It offers a measure of hope, and a plea for patience and understanding. The harmonic language shows how difficult these things are to achieve.

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