Tone painting of words goes at least as far back as Gregorian chant. Little musical patterns are musical words that express not only emotive ideas such as joy but theological meanings as well in the Gregorian. For instance, the pattern FA-MI-SOL-LA signifies the humiliation and death of Christ and His resurrection into glory. FA-MI signifies deprecation, while SOL is the note of the resurrection, and LA is above the resurrection, His heavenly glory ("surrexit Jesus"). Such musical words are placed on words from the Biblical Latin text; for instance when FA-MI-SOL-LA is placed on "et libera" (e.g. introit for Sexagesima Sunday) it signifies that Christ liberates us from sin through His death and resurrection.
Composers also experimented with word painting in Italian madrigals of the 16th and 17th centuries. Word painting flourished well into the Baroque music period. One well known example occurs in Handel's Messiah, where a tenor aria contains Handel's setting of the text:
In Handel's melody, the word "valley" ends on a low note, "exalted" is a rising figure; "mountain" forms a peak in the melody, and "hill" a smaller one, while "low" is another low note. "Crooked" is sung to a rapid figure of four different notes, while "straight" is sung on a single note, and in "the rough places plain," "the rough places" is sung over short, separate notes whereas the final word "plain" is extended over several measures in a series of long notes. This can be seen in the following example:
A modern example of word painting from the late 20th century occurs in the song "Friends in Low Places" by Garth Brooks. During the chorus, Brooks sings the word "low" on a low note. Similarly, on The Who's album Tommy, the song "Smash the Mirror" contains the line
Each repetition of 'rise' is a half-step higher than the last, making this a clear example of word-painting.
Justin Timberlake's song "What goes around" is another popular example of text painting. The lyrics
descend an octave and then return back to the upper octave.
In the chorus of Up Where We Belong, the melody rises during the words "Love lift us up where we belong."
On occasion, a composer may employ the opposite technique for a humorous effect. In the Broadway musical Once Upon a Mattress, Mary Rodgers has the lead character, Princess Winnifred, belt a brash show tune about her shyness called Shy.
Turkey issues 'final word' to Syria over civilian assault. Thousands flee Palestinian camp as Syrian troops shell Latakia. Jordan, PA denounce crackdown by Assad
Aug 16, 2011; OREN KESSLER; ReutersOREN KESSLER and Reuters Jerusalem Post 08-16-2011 Turkey issues 'final word' to Syria over civilian...