Yes, you read that right – I am talking about the music of sound here, rather than the other way round! And though I just love that iconic movie “The Sound of Music” in which the equally iconic Julie Andrews gives an unforgettable, SMASHING performance, that is not the topic of this article.
The topic here is how this figure of speech “Onomatopoeia” has mesmerised me ever since we learnt the figures of speech in school.
Onomatopoeia is defined as “a word which imitates the natural sounds of a thing. It creates a sound effect that mimics the thing described, making the description more expressive and interesting” (definition – literarydevices.net)
I still very vividly remember the BUZZ created in the English class after learning this particular figure of speech! Each of us had loads of examples to cite and the class was literally HUMMING with all of us busybees trying to get our two bits in and impress the teacher. One of the most interactive classes we ever had, for sure! A teacher lives for such moments!!
There is something very appealing about a word creating a complete sensory experience – the GURGLING of a brook, the TINKLING of a fountain, the BANG of a gun, the SWISH of a skirt, the THUDDING of a heart, the PANTING of a dog, the ROAR of a lion, the CRASHING of the waves…
When one speaks of words being mightier than swords… These words take the prize. A word which creates a visual and an audio experience as it is uttered .. Precise, to the point, sharp and yet poetic at the same time! Hence I like to call it “Music of Sound”.
A poem by Ms. Sarojini Naidu, “The Bangle Seller” has been my all time favourite precisely because of the melodious, TINKLING sound that one can almost hear in the background through the rich, colourful imagery that she creates while describing the bangle seller and his multihued glass wares!
So right now I sit beside a TINKLING fountain and hear a gentle breeze RUSTLING through the trees, as the birds return to roost and their CACOPHONOUS BIRDSONG fills the evening for a while before they settle down for the the night. It is so different from the MELLIFLUOUS BIRDSONG one can hear at the crack of dawn!
Slowly twilight falls and with it TIPTOES in the silence, so gently, you almost don’t notice it; till an owl HOOTS in a nearby tree and crickets take up their incessant CHIRPING. The nocturnals, on the other hand, shed the slumber of the day and start preparing for the night and you can feel the SLITHERS and the HISSES as they move through the underbrush, silent yet menacing!
But nightfall also envelopes the earth in a velvety blanket and the night suddenly breaks out into a SONG as someone somewhere starts playing a soulful, haunting melody on a flute and the rich notes are carried far over the breeze and suddenly it seems that the entire universe is AWASH with the music of this sound!
Nothing disturbs the peace of the evening except for the occasional WHISTLE of a train as it CHUGS past slowly; halting with a WHOOSH at times, if the signal is red; then gathering speed again to ROLL on into the darkness…
Night descends, and the city animal that I am, I SCURRY back into the air-conditioned cocoon of my room – the sounds which seemed enchanting during the day suddenly start sounding ominous in the dark – as I accidentally step on a twig, the CRACKLE leaves me startled; and the breeze RUSTLING through the trees, which made me poetic during the day, makes me wish for bright lights around so that I can SEE the sound and not just FEEL it. The constant WHIRRING of the air conditioning is a soothing, welcome even, sound at such times – I dont particularly fancy the OMINOUS ( to my city-sounds-addled mind, of course) silence of the night!
My brief onomatopoeic spell thus comes to an end and I return to the room to look at the world from behind the safety of the huge plate glass windows – to SEE and FEEL the night, but not to HEAR…!!