Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Storytelling images - imagination or visual?

A group of us were just discussing what the difference would be telling a story with input from an individual's imagination as compared to telling a story based on visual input as from a video. I would imagine that they would be quite different outcomes as some academics have found that the visual generally trumps everything else. In other words, what we have viewed becomes cemented in our story imaging.

I once told the story of when Saul, a.k.a. Paul became blind on the way to Damascus. After finishing the story, some of the audience asked why I left certain details. I tried to think what I left out and couldn't remember what I might've missed. So I asked, and they responded that I left out the part about him falling off of his horse. I couldn't remember that being part of the written story. Storytellers do omit certain details depending on what they want to focus on. But, I honestly couldn't remember anything to do with a horse in this story, especially Saul falling off one. It turns out that in Caravaggio's (1601) painting of this scene, Saul is on his back looking up, and on the left is a horse, presumably the one he rode and fell from. This audience knew this story well, but still believed that there was a horse in it somewhere. I reflected and thought that this is a good example of the visual trumping everything else.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Word painting in a told story

At choir practice the other night, our director, wanting to share some of his music education pointed to a frame in our anthem and cited it as an example of word, tone or text paining. He asked the composer, who was part of the choir, whether or not he intended it as such. In any case, it worked. In music, word painting "is the musical technique of writing music that reflects the literal meaning of a song. For example, ascending scales would accompany lyrics about going up; slow, dark music would accompany lyrics about death." (from Wikipedia) An example our director brought up, and that Wikipedia cites is in Handel's Messiah, where the crooked (wave-like tone) is made straight (level tone).
All that to say, is the other day I listened to someone telling the story of Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 18 and 21), where Sarah laughs when she hears she's to have a son in a year's time. Here's an opportunity to include a laugh or two to paint the story. Sarah and Abraham are well past child-bearing years and aren't getting any younger. Indeed she does bear a son, and funny thing, she feels like laughing, and states that others will laugh with her too now that Isaac is born, his name actually meaning 'he laughs'. I imagine Sarah's first laugh was one of disbelief, like a laugh that comes so quick one can't help it when hearing something so implausible. Her second laugh, once Isaac was named must've been something heartier than the first.
So, thanks for the teachable moment, Andrew. Word painting is another tool I can intentionally use in telling a story.