Listen, if you can, to this amazing carol, one of my all-time favourite arrangements:
Isnt that beautiful? The music is sublime, although the message is admittedly a bit of a mystery. I understand it to propose that it was a good thing that Adam took the apple because without this pre-story Mary would never have been given the honour of becoming the mother of Jesus Christ. Christians theologies often clash in my world these days, and it doesn't do to try to sort it all out by being cleverer than everyone else in the last 2000 years. The lyrics we sing are an updated version of a text from the early 1400s. (I learnt a new word from the Wiki entry: this is written in macaronic English, meaning that mixed languages are used in a single text, here Latin and English. Another, significantly more interesting example of this is "In Dulci Jubilo", which is also another of my favourite Christmas arrangements.)
Adam lay ybounden Bounden in a bond Four thousand winters Thought he not too long And all was for an apple An apple that he took As clerkes finden written in their book Nay had the apple taken been The apple taken been Nay had never our lady Abeen heavenly queen Blessed be the time That apple taken was Therefore we bound singen Deo gracias, deo gracias!
I love the way music of a beautiful song can have an effect on me at an entirely different level from its lyrics. Nevertheless I can't say that the two are for me ever unrelated: if I hear or sing about something nonsensical or frivolous, or an uninterpreted foreign text, I am not as moved as when the meaning being borne catches me up with it; and there is even more weight to poignant and beautiful words. I teach my choirs to sing to the heart of a song, not just to make use of its external form.
But it has to be said that if we get caught on literary criticism or theoretical precision about our texts we can lose the spirit of a thing. This version of 'Es ist ein Ros entsprungen' makes me feel like I'm floating on air, although the text has never yet particularly ignited my interest.
I am definitely going to keep Roomful of Teeth on my 'must visit' New York concert list.
Just briefly further to #65 on the apple question in the Eden story:
it has been suggested that 'apple' came to be used instead of 'fruit' when describing Eve's temptation due to a misunderstanding of – or a pun on – mălum, a Latin noun which means evil (from the adjective malus), and mālum, another Latin noun, borrowed from Greek μῆλον, which means apple.
Could be, could be. More linguistic mixing and matching; I like it.