Death snips proud men by the nose - (2009)
for medium voice and piano
Death is stronger than all the governments
because the governments are
men and men die
and then death laughs: Now you see 'em, now you don’t.
Death is stronger than all proud men
and so death snips proud men on the
throws a pair of dice and says: Read 'em and weep.
sends a radiogram every day: When I want you
I'll drop in -- and then
one day he comes with a master-key
and lets himself in and says: We'll
Death is a nurse mother with big arms:
'Twon't hurt you
at all; it's your time now;
you just need a long sleep, child;
have you had anyhow better than sleep?
[ 5 pages, circa 2' 50" ]
The text is taken from Sandburg's 1920 anthology of poems, Smoke and
The strophes are set as a kind of syncopated strut, such that a slight break
in the texture and harmonic gestures occurs after two strophes in a popular
genre, as the text comes to "death" entering "with a master-key." This is
quite similar in sentiment to Goethe's Das Alte, as may be found in
my settings in German, the small songs of the
Goethe-Lieder. The last strophe recaps the opening gestures
as reprises also the texts, "Now you see 'em, now you don't" and "Read 'am
and weep." Such distinctly American expressions lightly tinged with the
patois of that time in the Midwest echoes other writers whose use of
Americana was a signature in their work.
The score for Death snips proud men by the nose 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 piano-vocal score.
Death snips proud men by the nose