Publisher: Novello & Co
No Matter (2009)
Commissioned by Chanticleer, San Francisco, CA in 2008
Novello & Co Ltd
Chorus a cappella / Chorus plus 1 instrument
No Matter sets excerpts from Samuel Beckett’s 1983 prose poem Worstward Ho. It is one of the very last pieces Beckett ever wrote and remains one of his most enigmatic. The text concern’s the poet quest to reach a position of sheer emotional nihilism, a Sysyphian struggle that is, logically, unattainable as a creative artist: ‘nothing’ cannot be attained with words – “And worse may I be yet; the worst is not, so long as we can say ‘This is the worst’” (Shakespeare, King Lear IV.1.27-28).
Compositionally the piece plays on Beckett’s linguistic games, using very minimal material in a variety of permutations and combinations to provide a sense of overarching structure and musical drama. The title, taken from the text, is a reference to the task of attempting to achieve nothingness, as well as a casual turn of phrase. The work as a whole is a commentary on what the New Yorker, in its 1984 review of the work, called “Beckett's wrestle with the void to the point where less would be nothing.”