Years ago when I took piano lessons I learned the original name for the instrument, piano-forte or soft-loud. It was given that name because of its dynamic range. Unlike the harpsichord, notes could be played louder or softer by striking the keys harder or softer. This feature gave the piano versatility. A song could whisper one moment and scream the next. A talented pianist could use the full range of the instrument to reach his listeners.
Recently I was considering how writers portray emotions in our writing and the piano-forte came to mind. Do emotions have sound? What emotions are loud? What emotions are soft?
The first one that came to mind was anger. ANGER seemed like a loud emotion. Yelling, screaming, stomping, slamming. But then I thought of the icy cold anger when two people stop talking to each other, the anger that seethes beneath the surface, deadly quiet. It seemed that anger was not to be pigeon-holed as loud after all.
What of the other emotions? I realized they all had loud and quiet faces. Sadness ranged from loud wails through choked sobs to silent tears. Happiness held peals of laughter and screams of delight as well as soft glows and quiet smiles. People expressed fear in shrieking screams or wordless stares of frozen terror.
All the emotions hold a full range of dynamics, soft-loud, piano-forte. As writers we must keep this in mind. We must learn, as I had with the piano, when to play loud and when to play soft so that readers can hear the music of our words.