On Artistic Genius and Music as Onomatopoeia

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.

11 Replies to “On Artistic Genius and Music as Onomatopoeia”

  1. First there’s the prayer to the infant Jesus. Second there’s the singing to baby Jesus (“Away in a Manger” at Christmas time). Thirdly there’s the “prayer to Mary about blessed being the fruit of her womb. Now, if I lived some two thousand years ago I’d pray to baby Jesus and ask Mary to pray for me. But I can’t, and neither can you unless you have some sort of flux copasitor I don’t know about. Without one the above three of many examples just doesn’t make any sense. Can’t you see the Catholicism is the Roman Callgirl talked about throughout many a Scripture. Lord, in Yeshua’s name, open their ears that they may hear. AMEN

    1. God – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – is Omnipresent and Jesus Christ – God the Son in the Flesh – has conquered sin and death and sits at the Right Hand of the Father.

      Because of these Mysteries, we don’t need a time machine to sing and pray to Jesus Christ, whatever His Age be, and ask for the intercession of Mary the Ever-Virgin Mother of God.

      Besides, what good is a time machine when the present moment is what matters most? Leave the past to the past, live in the present, and don’t worry about the future. Trust in God!

  2. That is nice! My youngest brother’s name is David, and when he was little, us older brothers and his sister use to sing the spiritual to him Little David Play On Your Harp. If he was doing one of his chores, we would always emphasize the line “He never would play ’till his work was done!” We thought it was funny, though I don’t know if he did.

    Have you ever heard the recordings of the Roger Wagner Chorale? His group did some wonderful recordings such as Negro Spirituals, Folksongs of the South, Songs of Stephen Foster, and Foksongs of the Frontier. Some are only available on vinyl while a few titles are on cd (he also did some nice Christmas carol recordings).

  3. Absolutely awesome! I am always amazed at the capacities of the human voice.

  4. Sadly, Moses Hogan has been deceased for nearly ten years. I did have an opportunity to sing with him in an All-State conference, and it was a wonderful experience.

  5. Music is the universal language! There is a reason Lewis and Tolkien make music the language that God uses to “speak” the world into creation in Narnia and Middle Earth.

Comments are closed.