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Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.
- Louise Erdrich, from The Painted Drum. Used with permission.
This text comes from Louise Erdrich’s novel The Painted Drum and is a beautiful fit for vocal music. What struck me immediately about these words is that it conveys a holistic approach to personal spirituality and echoes the lessons from many religious canons in a very naturalistic way. The apples here are a double metaphor. They are us, as we bloom, ripen, and live out our lives, but they are also individual opportunities. We can choose to partake, or we can let them fall to the ground, unused and lost.
Musically, the wordless material that opens and concludes the piece is sorrowful, breaking. But as we hear these melodies again at the end, they resolve into a D major chord (over the pedal E in the bass line), symbolizing the first apple we taste after having been broken.
- Timothy C. Takach, 2013