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The Footsteps Die Out For Ever

MIDI excerpt

Instrumentation: Narrator, drum set and orchestra

Duration: ca. 18 minutes

Text: “The Footsteps Die Out For Ever” from A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Year composed: 2016

Place composed: Kansas City, Missouri

Dedication: The Footsteps Die Out For Ever is dedicated to my family:
To my father, who was never less of a father to me than Dr. Manette was to Lucie, and often was more;
To my mother, the Mrs. Manette whom Lucie never knew, but whom I have the privilege to know;
To my brother, a fellow Darnay/Carton along the path;
To my wife, my own Lucie and so much more;
And to my daughter, my own little Sydney: may she win her way up in the path of life well.


Program Notes: A Tale of Two Cities, serialized in weekly and monthly installments and finally published as a single volume in November 1859, is one of Charles Dickens’s best-loved and most-analyzed novels. In The Footsteps Die Out For Ever, I have sought to pay homage to Dickens’s work, heightening and extending the drama of the story by writing music for drum set and orchestra to accompany the narrator, who recites text drawn from the novel.

In A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Darnay is the Marquis St. Evrémonde (though he has renounced the title), an aristocrat and emigrant from France living in England with his wife Lucie, daughter, and father-in-law. Sydney Carton is Darnay’s doppelgänger; a ne’er-do-well who has wasted his life, he is in love with Lucie as well. Confessing his hopeless love to her, he states that he “would embrace any sacrifice for you and for those dear to you.” In the latter half of the novel, Darnay returns to Paris and is unjustly imprisoned and sentenced to death in the frenzied fervor of the French Revolution. Following Darnay to Paris, Carton contrives to exchange places with him on the night preceding his execution; Darnay escapes, and Carton dies in his place.

The Footsteps Die Out For Ever begins with a brief flourish on the tubular bells, introducing the piece’s scalar material, and the narrator reciting the opening paragraph of A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times….” This text sets the stage for the action and commentary to follow in the narrative, as well as reminding the listener of his or her own place in time. Dickens compares the period of the French Revolution to “the present period,” a conceit which makes the work relevant not only to his time, but just as much to our own.

The rest of the composition’s text is an edited version of the novel’s final chapter, titled “The Footsteps Die Out For Ever.” The music uses recurring motives to represent characters, themes, and ideas, and serves as background illustrating much of the action, including the tumbrils that carry the prisoners of the Revolution, the guillotine’s grim work, an intimate conversation between Sydney Carton and a seamstress, Carton’s recollection of Christ’s declaration “I am the resurrection and the life…”, Carton’s execution, and his prophetic last thoughts foreseeing the end of the Revolution and its evils. In those final words, Carton’s thoughts turn to the lives for which he is laying down his life, and end with the famous concluding words of the novel: “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”