The piece begins with a dark, sombre counterpoint which emerges from the opening sound of the slow-breathing bellows. Various interjections begin to disrupt the music's flow. These appear in the form of musical clichˇs and other stylistic gestures which gradually become more extended and prominent, ultimately becoming the basis for a riotous tangoesque section in which music hall, circus and Greek dance collide with snippets of Bach and Mozart. A slow chorale-like epilogue ends the piece.

Though not exactly 'no time for plot', Mortal's reliance upon novelty and set-piece 'turns' or 'gags', which have a disruptive, anti-narrative effect, reveals the music's anarchically comic structure. Joke-free zones are few and far between - even the title refers ambiguously both to death and (in slang) a state of alcoholic intoxication. The Groucho dedication on the scores indicates the composer's enthusiasm for early sound comedies and the 'vaudeville aesthetic' - sources of inspiration for a number of his other works which combine 'live' instruments and recorded sound, such as the orchestral fantasy Zapped! And the 'space age mini-opera' Junk Male.


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