Music and Texts of Gary Bachlund



Forbidden Fruit - (2009)    

Emily Dickinson

for medium voice and piano


Forbidden fruit a flavor has
   That lawful orchards mocks;
How luscious lies the pea within
   The pod that Duty locks!

[ 2 pages, circa 2' 00" ]

Emily Dickinson


The text is noted as LXXXVII, in Part One: Life, from Dickinson's Complete Poems, (1924). For more on Dickinson please see Because I Could Not Stop For Death.


The notion of forbidden fruit -- that which carries a tribal, religious or even a modern societal taboo -- is well understood. Part of the human psyche revolts at being told "no," from childhood and long into adulthood. When an orthodoxy proposes and enforces taboos, then these forbidden objects, beliefs and behaviors become all the more tantalizing to those who would reject the taboo, the proscription, the regulation or even the sway of modern political correctness. Dickinson reveals in four short lines that duty and law -- law being a changing frame of reference over time -- are often the actual definer of how "luscious" the hidden fruit might be. I wager few are the individuals in life who have not heard the call of some forbidden fruit in their own experience.



For this notion of forbidden fruit, a succession of open fifths -- the fifth being foundational in Western music and in its harmonic practices and tunings -- are piled one on top of the next as in the open upward rush in measure one. Seven chords based on fifths for their structure meander across time, both diatonically and chromatically, changing the reference for the vocal line which seeks to accommodate. The phrase, "forbidden fruit," is repeated multiple times throughout the setting, at its opening as at its final statement.



The score is available as a free PDF download, though any major commercial performance or recording of the work is prohibited without prior arrangement with the composer. Click on the graphic below for this piano-vocal score.


Forbidden Fruit