I borrowed the title for this piece from the well known nursery rhyme “Ring-a-ring o’roses,” in which each verse ends with the words “we all fall down.” Though it is most often associated with the Great Plague in 17th century England, the origins and meanings of this nursery rhyme are obscure. Regardless of its origin, while singing this tune as a child, the act of “falling down” is simply part of a game. There are many metaphors for “falling down” that elicit the notion of losing happiness, stability, health. I wanted to find a way to communicate this in my new piece while at the same time, maintaining the playfulness of a nursery rhyme.
I came across a newspaper article some years ago that included the cheery assurance that: “According to paratroopers, stunt professionals, physical therapists and martial arts instructors, there is indeed a “right way” to fall — and it can save you a lot of grief if you know how to do it.” (Kate Murphy, The New York Times January 2017) I remember thinking that this subject would make a clever text for a piece. After all, some version of “falling down” happens to everyone, and, in the moment, there never seems to be a right (or wrong) way to manage the experience. Using a straightforward text that lists the basic instructions for how to reduce injury when falling down, I want to create a context in which the innocence of nursery rhymes address a broader sense of what it means to fall down.
I distorted the rhythmic flow of the how-to-fall instructions with an air of mischief. I loop sections with changing tempi, trade syllables between voices, avoid melismatic vocal lines, rattle off words at rapid fire, use prickly chanting - very much in the spirit of nursery rhymes (when falling down was just part of the game). Incidentally, it has occurred to me that “Ring-a-ring o’roses” might well be the ideal choice of song to accompany my anti-infection hand-washing routine. The layers of irony and meaning in this simple association, to me, best communicate what I had in mind with this piece.
I would like to thank musica intima for having commissioned me to write a new work. I am deeply grateful for having been given this opportunity during a period of incomparable uncertainty in the performing arts.