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.