You may have have listened to Handel’s Messiah before and thought “I like this” or “This is great Christmas music” (btw it’s technically not Christmas music, see the last post). But you have never fully experienced this work until you understand what Handel is doing with the music. Handel had a purpose in mind when he composed the music, it is not just there to sound good (although it does sound good).
I’m tempted to go on a tangent here and discuss the genius of classical music, but that’s what this blog is kind of about. So today we’ll look at a particularly genius technique called text painting (or word painting), which is found in Handel’s Messiah.
Text painting is basically when the music sounds like what the words are talking about. So if a composer writes a song that talks about climbing up a mountain, using text painting the music would gradually get higher up in the notes that shatter windows. Or if it was talking about going down the mountain, the music would get lower and lower down into the bass notes. The music helps to interpret what is going on in the text, or paints a musical picture.
Handel used passages from the King James Version of the Bible for his Messiah, so they use a lot of thees and thous and haths and stuff because the text is from the 1600s. The verse that Handel uses in the chorus we’re gonna look at is from Isaiah 53:6-
We have turned every one to his own way;
And the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.