The Garden of Eden Needs Weeding
Hymn #49 -- "Adom-ondi-Ahman
Text: William W. Phelps (1792-1872; LDS)
Music: Anonymous, Southern Harmony, 1835
Tune name: PROSPECT OF HEAVEN
I'm expecting to get some wrath from more than a few readers with this one...
The music in this hymn just doesn't do it for me. Not even close.
Now, the text ... wow! Amazing! It may actually be the best description we have in modern revelation of what Adam-ondi-Ahman is, next to parts of Doctrine and Covenants section 107. W. W. Phelps knocks it out of the park with his beautiful and doctrinally deep and wonderful hymn text.
You'll see below that Jason likes the music because of its rustic American folk sound. I have nothing against rustic American folk music. I love it! But matched with this text? No way, Jose.
My first big gripe with the music is the strange "unfinished" feeling I have every time I play a verse of this hymn. It feels like it needs a 4th phrase. It feels unbalanced. The fermata comes way to early for me. And I wish the last line ended on a different cadence so we'd get a 4th line that would round off the form and complete what feels like a musical sentence-fragment to my ears.
Of all the hymns we've looked at so far, this is the one I want to re-write the most. Few hymn texts are a better example of modern revelation through Latter-day prophets. The text gets a score of a perfect 10 for me. The music, I'll give it a 2.5 or 3. It feels like such a huge divide in quality and satisfaction in communicating an important message. And it makes an incredible revelation feel hokey-pokey. Not my cup of tea (wait...we don't drink that...um..."not my cup of Diet Dr. Pepper...").
Perhaps the tune and formal layout work very well in its original form. I'm not sure. But this text needs a new setting.
That's about all I have to say about that. Pretty short...and not so sweet...but that's all I got today.
P.S. Click below and subscribe to get your copy of my Free Report: "9 Ingredients of Great Hymn Writing." I'll walk you through the most important part of writing your original hymn or primary song.
Commentary from "The Bench Warmer"
by Jason Gunnell, Organist
This is one of my wife’s favorite hymns. I really like this tidbit: “So great was Elder Bruce R. McConkie’s respect for this hymn and its message that he included all four of William W. Phelps’s verses as part of his definition of Adam-ondi-Ahman.” (Davidson, 78). I think this text is matched very well by the rustic tune from Southern Harmony. These tunes are in the shape-note tradition and have a unique spirit about them. Other tunes from Southern Harmony or in that tradition include Rock of Ages, My Shepherd Will Supply My Need, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, Amazing Grace, and What Wondrous Love is This. A good example of this manner of singing can be observed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aRpV9H9ZpB0. The text of this hymn seems to go so well within that early-American singing tradition! My wife relates that one of the reasons she is so drawn to this is one evening while we were dating, I improvised on this hymn and it was one of those moments where you perform outside of your capabilities. One of the moments where I wish the recorder was going so I could recreate what I did!
In order to maintain some of the dance-like qualities of this tune, I think a great lilting tempo is dotted quarter note equal to 66 beats per minute. That tempo gives the tune a nice opportunity to swing in two. The suggested affect of peacefully can be useful in contemplating a nice registration, and I would tend to begin more subdued or lightly. But I would not stay there long, as the fourth verse proclaims “Hosanna to such days to come, The Savior’s second coming, When all the earth in glorious bloom Afford the Saints a holy home, Like Adam-ondi-Ahman.” This text calls for something more proclamatory! So one method could be to build the registration toward the fourth verse, adding for each verse.
Registration Starting Point:
Great: Flute 8’
Swell: Principal 8’, Flute 8’, 4’, 2’
Pedal: Subbass 16’, Bourdon 16’, Flute 8’
Possible Next Verse Additions:
Great: Principal 8’ → 4’ → 2’, Bourdon 16’
Swell: Hautbois 8’ → Larigot 1 ⅓ → Mixture & Trumpet (4th Verse)
Pedal: Principal 16’, 8’ → Choral Bass 4’ → Reed 16’