FINAL THOUGHTS

Program Notes

Final Thoughts was completed in 2018 and was written for my former teacher, Adam Blackstock. The inspiration for this piece comes from Dylan Thomas’s poem, “Do Not Go Gentle.”

 

Do Not Go Gentle

Dylan Thomas, 1914 - 1953

 

Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

 

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,

Because their words had forked no lightning they

Do not go gentle into that good night.

 

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright

Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

 

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,

And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,

Do not go gentle into that good night.

 

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight

Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

 

And you, my father, there on that sad height,

Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

 

Dylan Thomas wrote this poem around the time of his father’s death. Rather than offering assurances or serenity to his father, he urges his father to “rage, rage” against his own passing—to fight on until the very end. Wise men might understand that death is natural, Thomas writes, but that doesn’t mean they must succumb quietly to their own end. The poem uncannily presages Thomas’ own premature death a few short years after his father. Riotously melodramatic and a well-known heavy drinker, Thomas continued his carousing right up until falling into a coma five days before passing away to what is now suspected to be bronchitis and pneumonia.

 

Somber yet fierce, Final Thoughts reflects the intensity of the emotions invoked by the poem and possessed by the poet. Its melody is slow, yet it could not be called “gentle”; its rich harmonies and chord progressions build musical tension with ferocity. As the poem, so this piece is an anthem of élan vital, or “force of life.” There should be nothing happy about the performance of this piece—it should be full of vigor and almost uncomfortably aggressive.