Music and Texts of Gary Bachlund


Why Fades a Dream? - (2009)     

Paul Laurence Dunbar

for medium voice and piano


Why fades a dream?
An iridescent ray
Flecked in between the tryst
Of night and day.
Why fades a dream?--
Of consciousness the shade
Wrought out by lack of light and made
Upon life's stream.
Why fades a dream?

That thought may thrive,
So fades the fleshless dream;
Lest men should learn to trust
The things that seem.
So fades a dream,
That living thought may grow
And like a waxing star-beam glow
Upon life's stream--
So fades a dream.

[ 3 pages, circa 2' 55" ]

Paul Laurence Dunbar


The text is drawn from Lyrics of Lowly Life, 1896. In the two sides to Dunbar's art, this is among the standard English poems which to my mind rank him among the great Americans men of letters. While his humor can run rampant, his serious side can speak with an eloquence in which spirit speaks through text. Other settings of Dunbar's poetry may be seen via Dunbar in the Authors Alphabetical Index of this site.



The setting uses the dominant triad as a pedal between chord changes in the lower voices, piling triads into diatonic seven and nine chords as its harmonic vocabulary. The choice of the 4/2 meter is intended to visualize a long-lined, lyrical interpretation of the setting.



The dynamics are in shades of mezzo piano and less, as the setting fades away in parallel with the spirit and meaning of the text.




The score for Why Fades a Dream 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.


Why Fades a Dream?