Musical expression is a particular gift and genius of the human person. And our capacity for music is not just to make crude sounds. Rather we are possessed, at least collectively, of creative genius in this regard. The video below illustrates this genius.
Do you remember your grammar and the grammatical term Onomatopoeia? An Onomatopoeia is a word that sounds like the object it describes. Words like oink, meow, Wham! Sizzle, and my personal favorite:”Yackety Yak”
There are times too when music takes up a kind of onomatopoetic quality. In the video below Moses Hogan, one of the great modern arrangers of the old African American Spirituals describes his arrangement of “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho.” He has the male and female voices in a frenetic dialogue with lots of staccato notes dominating in the male voices. This creates the very sound of an intense battle! The song sounds like what it is describing. It’s a kind of “musical onomatopoeia.” There are other aspects of the same concept, you’ll hear the trumpet in the soprano and the battle reach climax in a moment of dissonance. And wait till you hear the walls fall at the very end in a cascade of notes!
In this three minute video Moses Hogan describes his intent of echoing the sound of a battle and then the song is sung. Enjoy this brilliant and beautiful arrangement of the Spiritual. Admire too the wonderful discipline of the choir that is necessary to execute this spiritual flawlessly.