Gwyneth Walker

The Dying of the Light

for Baritone and Piano (2011)
for Tenor and Piano (2011)
for Tenor and String Quartet (2014)
for Baritone and String Orchestra (2014)

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Download an an MP3 file of the first movement of this work (tenor and piano) performed by Gregory Wiest, tenor and Akane Kubo, piano.
Download an an MP3 file of the second movement of this work.
Download an an MP3 file of the third movement of this work.

View a video presentation of a performance (tenor and string quartet) of this work by Henry H. Pleas III, tenor and the CMOP Quartet.

Download a PDF file of the piano score (tenor version) of this composition. This file of excerpted sample pages is for perusal only and is not printable. To hear MP3 files of the complete songs, see the above links.
Download a PDF file of the piano score (baritone version) of this composition. This file of excerpted sample pages is for perusal only and is not printable. To hear MP3 files of the complete songs, see the above links.

Download a PDF file of the full score (tenor and string quartet version) of this composition. For perusal only -- not printable.
Download a PDF file of the full score (baritone and string orchestra version) of this composition. For perusal only -- not printable.


The poetry of Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) is characteristically Welsh and dark. Death is a common topic in his writings. Yet despite the somber imagery, there is often a strength and resilience. The journey of death is described, but not taken. Death is the adversary, not the ruler.

"The Hand that Signed the Paper" speaks of the often cruel and deadly power of a signed document - adocument of taxation, of treaty or of counting casualties. The five fingers mark the dead, but do not soothe. "Hands have no tears to flow."

"And Death Shall Have No Dominion" expresses the triumph of the human spirit over death. "Though lovers be lost love shall not." Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night represents the fight against death. "Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

The musical expression of these poems places the voice in the low (dark) range. Tempi are slow, and minor keys are prevalent. Only occasionally are major tonalities presented. These passages combine with particularly uplifting phrases such as "Though they sink through the sea, they shall rise again" and "Wild men, who caught and sang the sun in flight."

Near the end of the last song, the poet addresses his deceased father: "And you, my father, there on the sad height..." The voice stays on a constant pitch while the harmony lifts beneath (to the heights), in the Lydian (raised) mode. [One might hear the voice as "perched atop" the rising chords.] This is one of the most personal lines of Dylan Thomas' poetry. As the poet speaks to his father, the climax of the song comes with the rising phrases of "Rage, rage against the dying of the light." The final chords are dissonant, marked "with determination and triumph."

Notes by the composer