The News - (2013)
Paul Laurence Dunbar
bass or baritone and piano
dat you whisperin' keepin' f'om me?
Don't shut me out 'cause I's ol' an' can't see.
Somep'n' 's gone wrong dat's a-causin' you dread,--
Don't be afeared to tell--Whut! mastah dead?
Somebody brung de news early to-day,--
One of de sojers he led, do you say?
Did n't he foller whah ol' mastah led?
How kin he live w'en his leadah is dead?
Let me lay down awhile, dah by his bed;
I wants to t'ink,--hit ain't cleah in my head:--
Killed while a-leadin' his men to fight,--
Dat's whut you said, ain't it, did I hyeah right?
Mastah, my mastah, dead dah in de fiel'?
Lif' me up some,--dah, jes' so I kin kneel.
I was too weak to go wid him, dey said,
Well, now I'll--fin' him--so--mastah is dead.
Yes, suh, I's comin' ez fas' ez I kin,--
'T was kin' o' da'k, but hit's lightah agin:
P'omised yo' pappy I'd allus tek keer
Of you,--yes, mastah,--I's follerin',--hyeah!
pages, circa 2' 45"
text is found in Dunbar's collection, Lyrics of the Hearthside
(1899). For other settings of Dunbar's texts, click
five strophes are treated in verse form, the first two with one
accompaniment, the second two with another, and the fifth with yet another.
The "snap" rhythm of the opening gesture suggests an odd yet appropriate
gaiety upon learning of the death of the "mastah" -- master. The speaker
reacts to the news with a variety of thoughts as the strophes go by.
second texture for a change in the accompaniment emphasize the bass line
reaching to the bottom of the keyboard, darkening the mood a little and
slowing the tempo. The vocal line remains the same, rather in the manner of
a hymn or folk tune.
final strophe changes colors with tempo changes and motivic elements from
earlier as the accompaniment. The setting closes with a tempo primo
as a brighter mood returns. It is up to the performers to consider the
dramaturgical reasoning behind such an essentially complex reaction as
Dunbar offers us in his most interesting, dialect-painted text.
The score for
The News 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