Tim Benjamin

composer, writer, storyteller

There is nothing here


There is nothing here is a song for soprano* and orchestra. It is based on The Interrogators, a short story by Christopher Middleton.

The piece depicts the arrival of a war crimes investigator at a remote village, somewhere in a frozen Europe, some time after a war has concluded. The text is at once highly descriptive, yet vague: it's a classic case of a first-person telling of a story through an interior, emotional perspective, precise yet still ambiguous on details, coloured and even distorted by personal feeling and bias. The investigator is due to meet someone who seems to have been a high-ranking officer in a defeated regime; it's believed that something terrible (yet unstated) took place nearby, but she's met with flat, cold denial: "there is nothing here."

Approaching the original story by Christopher Middleton (which is even more ambiguous, but in my reading tells a fairly different story to my adaptation), I wanted to focus on the phenomenon of those living in small towns near Nazi concentration camps during the latter part of World War II, who learned not to be too curious, to pretend that they were unware what was happening. In my piece, I have depicted (entirely through the emotional perceptions of the nameless protagonist) the coldness and denial of the village, and the cold hostility of the commandant who she's sent to question. Ultimately, she leaves the place empty-handed; perhaps one day truth will out - but not this day.

The subject of this story has an uncomfortable echo today, with many young people unaware of the Holocaust, or if aware, then unaware of the scale, or ignorant of the truth. Wilfully ignorant and incurious, like the residents of the unnamed village of There is nothing here? Perhaps. But with war crimes still an ever-present factor in conflict (Bucha, for example, or the 2023 attacks upon Israel by Hamas), truth is itself all too often another corpse we are unwilling to admit. I hope that my piece will prompt the incurious to become curious, to start to ask questions, and to refuse denial or shameless pretence as acceptable answers.

*The vocal part is written for soprano, but would also suit a mezzo (range: C4 to A5).


15 minutes


picc, fl, ob, c.a., Eb cl, b.cl, bsn, cbsn; 2hn, 2tpt; perc(1), timp(1); strings (6/5/4/4/2); voice (soprano or mezzo)

Request a score / parts

If you would like to see a score and/or require a set of parts for this music, please contact me.