Appreciation - (2010)
Paul Laurence Dunbar
baritone and piano
muvver’s ist the nicest one
‘At ever lived wiz folks;
She lets you have ze mostes’ fun,
An’ laffs at all your jokes.
I got a ol’ maid auntie, too,
The worst you ever saw;
Her eyes ist bore you through and through,—
She ain’t a bit like ma.
She’s ist as slim as slim can be,
An’ when you want to slide
Down on ze balusters, w’y she
Says ‘at she’s harrified.
She ain’t as nice as Uncle Ben,
What says ‘at little boys
Won’t ever grow up to be big men
Unless they’re fond of noise.
But muvver’s nicer zan ‘em all,
She calls you, “precious lamb,”
An’ let’s you roll your ten-pin ball,
An’ spreads your bread wiz jam.
An’ when you’re bad, she ist looks sad,
You fink she’s goin’ to cry;
An’ when she don’t you’re awful glad,
An’ den you’re good, Oh my!
At night, she takes ze softest hand,
An’ lays it on your head,
An’ says “Be off to Sleepy-Land
By way o’ trundle-bed.”
So when you fink what muvver knows
An’ aunts an’ uncle tan’t,
It skeers a feller; ist suppose
His muvver ‘d been a aunt.
pages, circa 3' 00" ]
Dunbar's collection, Lyrics of Sunshine and Shadow (1901), comes
another of his delightful dialect poems. As I have become more familiar with
his and other poet's various attempts to capture dialect in writing, I find
the vagaries of spelling most interesting. In this, "ist" is an contraction
of sorts for "just," as one example. Not all dialect for any given group is
identical, nor codified. To my reading and after becoming more familiar with
Gullah, another American dialect, I notice significant differences and so
urge the singer to take care with the pronunciation so as to honor Dunbar's
attempt at capturing this kind of speech.
Written for baritone as the text is specifically "boyish" in its
perspective, I mused a while about parallel movement among major triads, and
then opposite movement with varying intervals. For this pre-compositional
thinking, a "map" suggested certain chord relationships and spellings. In
this particular example, the bass line's triads are broken into open form
arpeggio moving by diatonic thirds, while the upper voice triads are closed
form and moving in half steps in opposite motion. I might be represented
thus, the second set being the transposition of the first by a third.
Then, the gesture for the accompaniment becomes measures 2-5 on C and then 6
and beyond on E. The vocal line above insinuates itself into a general C
major-minor above, but accommodates to the various chord changes. For this
the accompaniment is stuffed with major triads in parallel motion in a
polytonal palette still implying a tonality.
"riff" separates stanza as the parallel triads in the upper voices shift
into triplets for a moment, breaking the previous gestural and harmonic
rhythms. At the bridge in this song form, the map disappears in favor of
another set of parallel gestures of five note diatonic chords.
coda reprises the triplet "riff," the chord forms from the bridge and
gesture from the introduction to round out this song setting.
The score for
Appreciation is available as a free PDF download, though any major
commercial performance or recording of the work is prohibited without prior
arrangement with the composer. Click on the graphic below for this