Computer programmes and video games often include Easter eggs – little intentional secrets, inside messages or secrets to be found by the users and players. I’ve always thought of word painting (in the musical sense!) somewhat in the same way.


When related to text, word painting is all about the use of highly descriptive words to invoke images into the reader’s mind. Musical word painting is the equivalent using notes – Grove Music defines it as “The use of musical gesture(s) in a work with an actual or implied text to reflect, often pictorially, the literal or figurative meaning of a word or phrase”. It can be found across the musical spectrum, though commonly in Renaissance and Baroque music, art songs (aha!) and folk music such as madrigals. Sometimes a motif representing a mood – e.g. grief – may be the basis a whole piece revolves around, and in others it can be a fleeting gesture supporting the text.

For the rest of the post please see the Cracked Voices blog.


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