Composers call that process "theme and development." For example, the musical motive to word paint the text phrases "all we like sheep" and "have gone astray," as composed by Handel, have contrasting rhythmic and melodic features. They sometimes are performed by all the voices homophonically with the rhythms and harmonies lining up vertically. Sometimes they are introduced contrapuntally with the different voices playing a game of cat and mouse chasing each other up and down the scales in wandering melismas. Sometimes the motive is introduced in a short succinct statement, other times it is treated in a fast passage that "strays all over the place." And as our conductor says, "Here you all get to stray a little more before the great reckoning!" Those of you who know this piece understand that it ends with a dire statement in a sterile minor mode: "And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquities of us all."
When I was thinking of setting the scriptural verse from Alma 37:6
"By small and simple things are great things brought to pass," I thought of working in the Theme and Development model of the great Baroque composers, but keeping the musical ideas in a contemporary style. This is such an amazing text emphasizing that the simple things in life can mean the most and set the course for our lives. I decided that the text was important enough to warrant stating in several different ways and then at the end have it present in the background while highlighting some of the most important little things we can do to fortify us against the dangers in this life. The result of my effort is an SATB choral piece, "By Small and Simple Things." It was recently in a sacred songwriting contest. I appreciate all of the votes and thoughtful comments it received. Though written for a Youth Chorus, it has such a timeless message, many choirs are sure to find it enjoyable to sing.
Hope yours will, too.