Re-presentation of Biblical Verse through Musical Means

  • Amanda Lott


While intersemiotic translations exist plentifully when it comes to text to screen or text to stage translations, there seems to be a lack of serious exploration into text to music translation. While there is an abundance of music inspired by literature, especially when it comes to Biblical passages, rarely does it re-present the original text; usually only one or two aspects are taken and reproduced in the musical score, the rest either ignored or changed to fit the composer’s idea of musicality. Despite this lack of musical intersemiotic translation, it is not an impossible task. By using a modern rendition of the bible (NIV), I will explore the links between the literature and music, and the various ways in which any single aspect of a text can be translated using a Percian model. The relationship between a text and a musical score will be explained and used to demonstrate how an original composition can purposefully act as an intersemiotic translation, in this case specifically as a translation of select verses in Matthew. The underappreciated field of musical re-presentation within translation has the ability to preserve and illustrate extra- musical content, because although it is depicted differently, music can still reveal the moods, movements, and stories apparent in literary texts in a way that everyone can enjoy.