Dead Fires for medium voice and piano


Dead Fires for medium voice and piano


“If this is peace, this dead and leaden thing, Then better far the hateful fret, the sting.”

These words were written in 1922 at a time when African American were making progress in a severely hostile American society. Slavery had been abolished for over fifty years, the first of thousands African Americans would begin pouring into industrial cities to find work and the establishment of the National Association for the Advanced of Colored People in 1909 set the tone for progress. Additionally prominent writers such as W.E.B Du Bois and Booker T. Washington began to change the consciousness of Black America through their works and spark a great fire of free thought.

However, without a source of energy, all fires smother to ashes. This fire burning inside of civil rights activists needed passion and dedication to thrive. Without this, the internal fire diminish and begin to burn out. Jessie Fauset was trying to tell her readers and fellow activists that this fire needed to be reignited.

I have composed a monotonous, thick and heavy character to represent the responsibility that Fauset must have felt having seen complacency in her community. With the piano accompaniment in its lower, darker register, the unsettling vocal line moves in a lugubrious, syncopated fashion. Is the fire dead or is it a flickering flame?


If this is peace, this dead and leaden thing, Then better far the hateful fret, the sting. Better the wound forever seeking balm Than this gray calm!

Is this pain's surcease? Better far the ache,
The long-drawn dreary day, the night's white wake, Better the choking sigh, the sobbing breath
Than passion's death!

Jessie Fauset

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