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Dearden, Nathan James: Morals + Interludes. SATB

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The five movements of Morals + Interludes are reports from the frontier of the quotidian, musical postcards created from lived and shared experiences and the digital reflections of the gifted NYCGB Fellowship singers with whom Nathan James Dearden collaborated in 2019–2020. Created at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, the score suggests the heightened sensibility of that time in its web of enigmatic memories and connections, with texts and music a compound of ‘virtual souvenirs’, melded into material that highlights a range of feelings from the humdrum to the profound. Passionately concerned with music as a form of commentary, the composer in his own words describes how ‘a mirror was held up to ourselves, in order to discover the moral behind each of our stories, and explore the interludes that permeate our everyday lives.’

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In recent years I have become increasingly concerned with the nature of the ‘everyday’. The ubiquity of technology, and the exaggeration of our often quite ‘mundane’ existence on social media, have meant that we can no longer turn our heads away from the wider world (and, arguably, neither should we). It is all there before us.

Now, in varying degrees, it seems that we may even find ourselves digitising our entire lives either wilfully or unconsciously: from the work we have to do as our employment, to the socialising we need as human beings. And, for many people, communication with others can now be quite literally confined within the ‘chaos’ of the virtual. Meanwhile, there must still be time for reflection, as indeed was enforced upon many of us during the lockdown period of the COVID pandemic. For all its disruption and negative impact, perhaps this was an essential moment in time, fostering repose as we quite literally lived with our own introspective thoughts on levels of being from the routine to the existential: meditations on the past and the future and where we fit within both, while also being ‘immortalised’ digitally.

Conceived in collaboration with the singers of the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain Fellowship in 2020, Morals + Interludes is a series of choral contemplations about our relationship with our digital selves. Using ‘virtual memories’ gathered from individuals, anything indeed from old home movies to snapshots from social media personas and personal blogs, five short choral postcards were created, inspired by these ‘lived’ experiences, and with the aim of finding either joy or unexpected profundity behind these glimpses. Reflecting a range of feelings from the humdrum to the emotional, a mirror was held up to ourselves, in order to discover the moral behind each of our stories, and explore the interludes that permeate our everyday lives.

This work was completed while I was supported by Britten Pears Arts, in a residency at The Red House in Aldeburgh. Its title was suggested by Alfred W. Pollard’s English Miracle Plays, Moralities, and Interludes, from which Benjamin Britten derived the text for Noye’s Fludde and for Canticle II: Abraham and Isaac.

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