group discussion – word painting – mozart

 

Open Discussion Board Topic: Word Painting

This week’s lesson is focused on John Farmer’s Fair Phillys, a cheerful madrigal. To help emphasize the emotions of his poem, Farmer uses word painting to great effect (see EBOOK pg.  83-84). This technique has continued to be used in music right up to the present day.

Characteristics of WORD PAINTING:

  • Used in songs, i.e. music with lyrics/text
  • Musical elements imitate the meaning of a specific word (s) being sung
  • Refers to a specific moment when musical elements and the words line up; not an overall mood of the song
  • Usually, word painting will only happen on the target word.  If the musical elements are a part of a verse that comes back several other times, for different words, it’s not really word painting (since it doesn’t target a single word)

Here’s a famous example of word painting in pop music: Garth Brook’s Friends in Low Places.  In this excerpt, listen for the line, “I got friends in low places,” and hear his voice suddenly drop to a low pitch on the word “low.”  In this way, the musical elements (a drop in pitch) demonstrate the meaning of the word.  Some instances of word painting are more subtle, but this is the basic idea. 

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Instructions:

  • Find an example of word painting in a song or piece of music (other than, of course, Fair Phillys or I Got Friends).  Any style of music is fine.
  • Post the song to the discussion board (YouTube is the easiest).
  • In your post, 
    1. Describe the example of word painting you hear.  Include the timing when word painting occurs, a clear description of the the musical elements used to reflect the word, and explain the meaning behind the lyrics, both at this moment, and overall in the song.
    2. Answer: How does the Word Painting impact your experience in listening to this song?
    3. Answer: Was this a song you heard before? Did you notice the correlation between the words and music in this prior listening?

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