To a Dead Friend -
Paul Laurence Dunbar
medium voice and piano
as if a silver chord
Were suddenly grown mute,
And life's song with its rhythm warred
Against a silver lute.
It is as if a silence fell
Where bides the garnered sheaf,
And voices murmuring, "It is well,"
Are stifled by our grief.
It is as if the gloom of night
Had hid a summer's day,
And willows, sighing at their plight,
Bent low beside the way.
For he was part of all the best
That Nature loves and gives,
And ever more on Memory's breast
He lies and laughs and lives.
pages, circa 2' 45"
Dunbar's grave marker
opus of American poet, Paul Laurence Dunbar, has sparked creativity in my
music making. The time spent over these years with his fine work -- some
traditional and some in savory dialect -- has affected me in the same way as
my decades singing texts of many poets and librettists across a wide range
of musical works. Though I may only meet him in this life through his words
and work, I consider Paul Laurence Dunbar a living friend. On my opening
page for this site, I state that -- of the authors and poets represented --
I include "something of who they were and are, what they have given and
still give to us." Indeed and in deed, this is a truth for the artist that
collaborative effort strike sparks of creativity, and crosstalk even across
the centuries is a part of the foundation on which we stand. This then is my
homage to him in his own words, because still he "laughs and lives."
text is taken from Dunbar's collection, Lyrics of Love and Laughter
(1903). For other settings of his texts,
long arches throughout are underpinned by an unchanging tonic pedal, the
lines above revealing changing harmonies all rooted on the tonic. The
quatrains are unified into two phrases, such that each strophe becomes a
long gesture among long arched gestures. The sostenuto as marked in
the pedal is intended throughout this extremely sparse and simple setting.
The third strophe is treated in different but similar textural manner, such
that the final strophe may act as a summation and of course eulogy.
The score for
To a Dead Friend 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
To a Dead Friend