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A photograph 'depicts' its object. Is there a comparable word for audio recordings?

For example, "The recording [verbs] The Beatles playing Been a Hard Day's Night."

  • I realise it means something different, but in your example I'd use contains – blgt Nov 13 '14 at 18:07
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    A recording records their performance... at least according to the Department of Redundancy Department. – Digital Chris Nov 13 '14 at 18:12
  • It seems like a complex comparison if we squarely consider what a photo does when it depicts. If it shows, then a recording would perhaps most comparably play. If it preserves, or holds, then perhaps we want contain. Why is depict used? That is, Why tell someone what a photo depicts? Usually to label or identify. Only contain or hold comes to mind again as comparable. – Jim Reynolds Nov 13 '14 at 18:13
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    'reproduces' may fit well.. perhaps it's just me, I would not mind using 'depicts'for music or pictures. – Misti Nov 13 '14 at 18:19
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The verb depict can be defined as to represent, as a painting or picture does (that's from OED's definition for OP's context).

There is no "medium-specific" verb for representing something in an auditory, olfactory, gustatory, or tactile medium (songs, perfumes, statues, etc.). Figurative use, such as the song depicts [whatever it's supposed to "reflect, invoke"] is perfectly common. Otherwise, you can just use to represent in all contexts for all mediums.


The more "literal" general-purpose verbs include invoke, express, emulate, show, suggest, etc. Alternatives which are more "figurative" include reflect, capture, encapsulate, etc.

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    While depict might be "medium-agnostic" (not to be confused with a small atheist), it seems increasingly difficult to use "depict" as one moves away from the visual media. "This painting depicts Jane Eyre." "This statuette depicts the Statue of Liberty." "This song ?depicts 'A Hard Day's Night.'" "This scratch 'n' sniff ?depicts Absolut Vodka." "This ratatouille ??depicts a dish from my childhood." (Incidentally, shouldn't the plural for medium be media at the end of your second paragraph?) – rajah9 Nov 14 '14 at 13:56
  • I think This song ??? "A Hard Day's Night" is a slightly different context. In practice it's just a song title, not really something that can be "represented" using words or pictures. Though as I said, "represent" seems to work in all contexts where it's meaningful to equate an artwork with an external referent. As for the plural of medium, I'm happy with my usage - In art, where medium refers to materials used to create a piece, both plurals are commonly used. (But I fully expected someone to query it! :) – FumbleFingers Nov 14 '14 at 14:26
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Capture could cover both photographs and sound recordings.

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The recording reproduces The Beatles playing "A Hard Day's Night.", with a warmth and clarity that only Vinyl can deliver.

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Music may evoke something or may reflect something. Eg:

Music evokes so many feelings in us, memories, nostalgia, things that are connected to our past.
  • But that's not the same as a picture "depicting". – Moshe Katz Nov 14 '14 at 3:44
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If it is a digital representation, you could say

"This MP3

the Beatles rendition of A Hard Day's Night."

(These words may get to the partial representation with some loss of fidelity, but it must be of the original song and band.)

If it is a group other than the Beatles performing the song, you could say, "The recording covers The Beatles A Hard Day's Night." (This may get to aspect of the imitation or recasting of a song, and must be performed by a different band.)

And, for the record, I had no idea that Alvin and the Chipmunks covered A Hard Day's Night.

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"Depict" is for artistic representation, not recorded or mechanical representation. That is, a "painting depicts" and a "photograph records."

However, your question appears to be about the representative meaning of a picture vs. the representative meaning of a piece of music. This is also relates to how you experience a painting - you view it. With music, you listen to it.

"Depicts" is a description of what the object you are interacting with is "doing" (it is "representing" something).

A painting "depicts" a subject. A musician "plays" a score. A singer "sings" a song.

When a musician plays or singer sings, it is their artistic representation of that music.

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