for baritone & piano (1990)
American Composers Alliance, 35 minutes
don't know of another composer who has created a special
genre like this and made it her own."
(Marshall Bialosky, Composer USA)
Dangerous Man is a highly
dramatic, staged monodrama about John Brown, abolitionist fighter
in Kansas and instigator of
the watershed events at Harpers Ferry in 1859, said by W.E.B.
DuBois to have begun the war to end slavery. The texts
include letters by Brown himself, commentary by contemporaries
such as Thoreau, Frederick Douglass, Emerson and Lincoln, along
with excerpts from the Kansas Slave Code, and verbatim accounts
of his trial. The piece is meant as a cautionary tale with
a clear message for us today.
A Dangerous Man was commissioned
by the Center for the Creative Arts at Austin Peay State University
and premiered there in 1992 by baritone Kenneth Lee and pianist
Jeffrey Wood. In addition, the piece was performed at a festival
of the Society of Composers at the University of Alabama.
page 2 of score below.
order the score: email@example.com
Lee as John Brown
from "In 1700 it would have cost"
from "I saw three mangled bodies"
from "God sees it. God is my judge."
There is a sort of blood
shed when the conscience is wounded.
I see this blood flowing now. (Thoreau)
The cry of distress of the oppressed
Without the shedding of blood, there
is no remission of sins. (John Brown)
Lincoln said of me--
"An enthusiast broods over the oppression
of a people
until he fancies himself commissioned
by Heaven to liberate them.
He ventures the attempt which ends
in little else than his own execution."
He died as the fool dieth.
He threw his life
What will he gain by it?
He is undoubtedly insane.
Served him right.
He died as the fool dieth.
He threw his life away.
A dangerous man. (Thoreau)
I, John Brown, true descendent
of Peter Brown of the Mayflower Pilgrims,
vow eternal war with slavery.
I act from a principle. My aim
and object is to restore human rights.
I expect nothing but to endure hardship;
but I expect to effect a mighty conquest
even though it be like the last victory
of Samson. (John Brown)
In 1700 it would have cost something
to overthrow slavery and establish liberty;
by reason of cowardice and blindness,
the cost in 1800 was vastly larger
but still not unpayable; in 1859,
now is the accepted time. It will cost--even blood
and suffering--but not as much as
waiting. (W.E.B. DuBois, John
Do you say that ours is a Democratic
Government, and there is a more peaceable remedy? I deny
that we live under a Democracy. It is an oligarchy of Slaveholders,
and I point to the history of half a century to prove it.
(It is vain to reason with slaveholders. One
might as well hunt bears with ethics and political economy for
Rather than thus consent to establish
a hell upon earth I would touch a match to blow up earth and hell
They are the lovers of law and order who
observe the law when the government breaks it. (Thoreau)
It is so strange to find oneself outside
of established institutions;
to be obliged to lower one's voice and conceal
to see law and order, police and the military
on the wrong side,
and find good citizenship a sin and bad
citizenship a duty, that takes time. (Rev.
I do not wish to kill nor to
be killed, but I can foresee circumstances in which both these things
would be unavoidable.
Whar you going?
To Osawatomie in Kansas.
Whar you from?
You'll never live to git there.
We are prepared not to
It is believed that Osawatomie
is in danger any day or night.
The place is known as an abolition nest.
Adair, Brown's sister)
No man's life is safe; no kind of property
secure. A guerilla war exists in Kansas.
(New York Daily
Tribune, May 5, 1856)
In Kansas the question is never raised,
is he a Democrat? Is he a Republican?
The questions there raised are, Is he a
Free-State man? or, Is he a proslavery man? (John Brown)
In Kansas, "If any free person shall advise
any slaves to rebel, such person shall
be guilty of felony and suffer death." (Section
3, Kansas Slave Code)
I, with six sons and a son-in-law,
was called out twice to defend Lawrence.
We were at Osawatomie--I wept at the burning--and
at Franklin and again at the Battle of Black Jack.
For some time now we have been sick, wounded,
obliged to lie on the ground without
shelter, our boots worn out, destitute of
money and almost in a state of starvation.
I saw three mangled bodies which
had lain on the open ground for the flies to
work at. One of those dead was my
At Pottawatomie I ordered the execution
of five men. We dragged them from their beds, questioned
them closely, and hacked them to death in the night. My son, John, resigned from
the unit and my sons Owen and Jason accused me of a wicked crime.
God sees it. God is my judge.
I say they had a perfect right to die.
Brown, "An Idea of Things in Kansas;"
Brown, "John Brown & Sons in
Brown, quoted in Thoreau's diary)
NEGRO INSURRECTION AT HARPERS FERRY, VIRGINIA--STOP--SEIZURE
OF THE UNITED STATES ARSENAL--STOP--BRIDGE FROM MARYLAND FORTIFIED AND DEFENDED
BY CANNON--TRAINS FIRED INTO--TELEGRAPH WIRES CUT--HOTELS CLOSED--EVERY LIGHT
IN TOWN EXTINGUISHED--ALL ROADS LEADING THERE BARRICADED AND GUARDED--ADDING
NEW FLAMES TO THE FIRES OF EXCITEMENT THE NAME OF THE LEADER IS OSAWATOMIE
Stand by one another while a drop of blood
remains. Be hanged if you must but tell no tales out of school. Nothing
so charms the American people as personal bravery.
I believe a conspiracy has been
formed in this raid upon Virginia, extending not only over a portion
of the United States, but also into England.
The whole scheme is said to have
been hatched in Boston.
from Harpers Ferry)
Papers found confirm that a Provisional
Government was to be attempted.
John Brown said if we would allow
him to take our niggers off without making any fuss, he would not
Davis, Congressional Globe (12/8/1859))
The outbreak has assumed startling
proportions and may prove the first act of a terrible drama.
--Old Brown should be killed
here and now.
--Leave him to Heaven. He won't
last another hour.
--Heaven will not have that buzzard.
It will spew him forth.
--We will let one of you hostages
put the noose on him.
If Old Brown is executed, there
will be thousands to dip their handkerchiefs in his blood.
Yeoman, Frankfurt, NY)
We desire, if Brown and his coadjutors
are executed, to add their heads to the collection in our museum
at the University of Virginia Medical School. If the transference
of the bodies will not exceed a cost of $5 each, we should be glad
to have them.
of Anatomy, University of Virginia Medical School)
John Brown with six half-gaping
wounds bathing his mattress in blood and the ghostly presence of
his two dead sons ever beside him; justice in a hurry and overleaping
all obstacles; 40 minutes of deliberation and three men sentenced
to die. I declare on my honor that this took place, not in
Turkey, but in America.
Victor Hugo's letter to the London Daily News)
People are surprised at father's
daring to invade Virginia with only 22 men; but I think if they
knew what sort of men they were, there would be less surprise. I
never saw such men.
My men took more care to end life well than
to live life long.
Dangerfield Newby, forty-eight, born a slave
with seven slave children,
the first to die;
William Thompson, blond and burly, taken
prisoner and murdered
and thrown off the bridge;
Aaron Stevens, six foot two, strong as a
bull, shot under a flag of truce,
jailed and hanged;
Watson Brown, my own son, shot with Stevens,
died of wounds;
William Leeman, shot while surrendering,
used for target practice;
John Kagi, second in command, bearded and
eloquent spokesman, shot and died of wounds;
Lewis Leary from Oberlin, Ohio, the second
black to die;
Oliver, my son, only twenty, wounded and
died in agony;
Owen Brown, my son, experienced engineer
on the Underground Railway,
escaped and led four others to safety: Charles
Tidd, John Cook,
Frances Meriam, Barclay Coppoc;
Osborn Anderson, a free black from Canada,
on his own account,
escaped and lived to write about it;
Stewart Taylor, foretold his death;
Dauphin Thompson, just twenty-one; Jeremiah
Anderson; both dead.
All the rest, captured, jailed and hanged:
Edwin Coppoc; John Cook; Shields Green,
a runaway slave;
Albert Hazlett; John Copeland, a student,
the fourth black to die.
And I, John Brown, found guilty
of treason, conspiracy and murder and sentenced to hang, am now
quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be
purged but with blood.
written words of John Brown)
You had better prepare yourselves
for a settlement of this question. You may dispose of me
easily--I am nearly disposed of now; but this question is still
to be settled. The end is not yet.
Brown quoted by DuBois)
I cannot better serve the cause
I love so much than to die for it and mingle my blood with the
blood of my children for the furtherance of justice.
So let it be done. (John
Blow ye the trumpet, blow.
The year of Jubilee is come.
Year of meteors! brooding
I would bind in words retrospective some
of your deeds and signs,
I would sing how an old man, tall, with
white hair, mounted
the scaffold in Virginia.
Your chants, O year all mottled with evil
and good--year of forebodings!
Year of comets and meteors transient and
As I flit through you hastily, soon to fall
and be gone, what is this chant,
What am I myself but one of your meteors?