Program music is music the is based upon a details narrative and, together such, is intended to evoke extra-musical ideas or pictures in the mental of the listener, by musically depicting a scene, theme, events, or literature text. Through contrast, absolute music represents itself and also is intended come be appreciated without any type of extra-musical stare or connotations.

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Program music refers nearly exclusively to works in the European classic music tradition, particularly those native the Romantic duration of the nineteenth century, when the concept was popular. The "tone poem" of the Romantic era is an example of a kind of regime music. However, pieces which right the description have lengthy been a part of music indigenous the eighteenth century. The hatchet is usually booked for purely crucial works, and also not because that opera or songs. In contemporary music, the legacy of regimen music remains very much alive, because that example, in movie soundtracks, in which composers strive to evoke a details emotional an answer from listener in maintaining with the routine of the film.

History of regimen music

Renaissance period

Composers of the Renaissance created a same amount of regimen music, specifically for the harpsichord, consisting of works such as Martin Peerson"s The autumn of the Leafe and also William Byrd"s The Battell. For the last work, the composer noted the complying with written summary of the sections, indicating your programmatic themes: "Souldiers sommons, marche that footemen, marche the horsmen, trumpetts, Irishe marche, bagpipe and the drone, flute and also the droome, marche come the fighte, the battels it is in joyned, retreat, galliarde because that the victorie."


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Baroque period

Probably the most famed work the the Baroque era is Antonio Vivaldi"s The 4 Seasons, a set of four concertos because that violin and also string orchestra the illustrates the seasons of the year v rain, buzzing flies, chilly winds, treading ~ above ice, dance peasants, and also so on. The regimen of the occupational is made explicit in a succession of four sonnets created by the composer.

Another famous Baroque program job-related is Johann Sebastian Bach"s Capriccio ~ above the exit of a lovely Brother, BWV 992, who sections have charming descriptive titles such as: "Friends conference and shot to dissuade the from departing," "They snapshot the dangers which may befall him," "The Friends" Lament," "Since he cannot be dissuaded, they speak farewell," "Aria of the Postilion," and "Fugue in Imitation the the Postilion"s horn."

Classical era

Program music to be less regularly composed in the classical era. At this time, perhaps an ext than any other, music achieved drama indigenous its own inner resources, notably in works written in sonata form. That is thought, however, that a variety of Joseph Haydn"s earlier symphonies might be regimen music. For example, the composer once said that one of his previously symphonies to represent "a dialogue in between God and the Sinner." The classical-era composer knife Ditters von Dittersdorf composed a series of symphonies based on Ovid"s Metamorphoses (not come be puzzled with twentieth-century composer Benjamin Britten"s 6 Metamorphoses after ~ Ovid).

Ludwig van Beethoven felt a certain reluctance in writing program music, and also said that his 1808 Symphony No. 6 (Pastoral) the the "whole work can be regarded without description—it is more an expression of feelings fairly than tone-painting." yet the work plainly contains depictions of bird calls, a babbling brook, a storm, and also so on. Beethoven later on returned to regimen music with his Piano Sonata Op. 81a, Les Adieux, which depicts the departure and return of his near friend, Archduke Rudolph.

Romantic period

Program music particularly flourished in the Romantic era. A far-reaching reason for this was the affect of literature and folklore top top composers in the nineteenth century. The symphonic poem (also well-known an ton poem), normally a single-movement orchestral form that develops a poetic idea, speak a story, argues a scene or create a mood, ended up being the most prominent auto for regimen music in the Romantic era.

As it have the right to invoke in the listener a particular experience beyond that that sitting and also listening that musicians, program music is pertained to the purely Romantic idea the the Gesamtkunstwerk, a performance encompassing music, theater, and the visual arts. Composers believed that the dynamics that sound the were newly possible in the Romantic orchestra that the era permitted them to emphasis on emotions and also other intangible facets of life much an ext than throughout the Baroque or classical eras.


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Hector Berlioz"s Symphonie Fantastique to be a music narration of a hyperbolically emotional love story the he wrote himself. Franz Liszt noted explicit programs for countless of his piano pieces, and he is additionally the inventor that the symphonic poem. In 1874, modest Mussorgsky used only the dynamic variety of one piano to write a collection of pieces describing seeing a collection of ten the his friend"s paintings and also drawings. Entitled images at one Exhibition, this piece was later completely orchestrated by Maurice Ravel. The French composer Camille Saint-Saëns composed many quick pieces of routine music i beg your pardon he referred to as Tone Poems. His most famed are probably the Danse Macabre and also several motions from the Carnival of the Animals. The composer Paul Dukas is recognized for his tone poem The Sorcerer"s Apprentice, based on a story from Goethe.

The tone poem entitled The Moldau through Smetana depicts the Czechoslovakian river as it leaves its birthplace as two small but vibrant springs, winding its way through the countryside and villages, proceeding ultimately through the turbulence of the crashing of waves of rapids and also to the last calm the the open sea. Smetana used a richness and also sensuality of sound to attain a selection of atmospheres and also moods in his program music.

Possibly the many adept at musical depiction in his routine music was the German composer Richard Strauss, who symphonic poems include: Tod und Verklärung (portraying a dying man and his entry right into heaven), Don Juan (based top top the ancient legend that Don Juan), till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche (based on illustration in the job of the legendary German figure Till Eulenspiegel), Don Quixote (portraying episodes in the life that Cervantes" character, Don Quixote), Ein Heldenleben (which depicts illustration in the life of one unnamed hero frequently taken to it is in Strauss himself), and Sinfonia Domestica (which portrays episodes in the composer"s own married life, consisting of putting the baby to bed). Strauss is reported to have actually said that music can describe anything, also a teaspoon!<1>

Other noteworthy composers of symphonic poems incorporate Antonin Dvorak (The gold Spinning Wheel, The wood Dove, The Noonday Witch), Franz Liszt (Les Preludes, die Hunnenschlact, Mazeppa), Jean Sibelius (Finlandia, the Legends the the Kalevala), Ottorino Respighi (the roman Trilogy) and P.I.Tchaikovsky (Francesca da Rimini).

Several the Gustav Mahler"s symphonies have programmatic connotations. In the finale the his 6th symphony there are three climatic moment which are marked by fierce hammer blows which signified (according come his widow, Alma) the death of his daughter, the diagnosis that his heart condition (which would become fatal) and also his compelled resignation in ~ the manager of the Vienna Opera.

Twentieth century


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In the twenty century, Alban Berg"s Lyric Suite was thought for year to be abstract music, however in 1977 it was uncovered that it remained in fact committed to Hanna Fuchs-Robettin.<2> essential leitmotifs room based the melodic collection A–B–H–F, i beg your pardon is their an unified initials. The last movement additionally contains a setup of a poem by Baudelaire, suppressed by the composer for publication.<2>

French composer Olivier Messiaen used bird tune as the basis for his work-related Chroncromie, however this there is no program or narrative come speak of. Paul Hindemith"s 1934 symphony, Mathis der Maler, is one orchestral work-related extracted indigenous his opera that the same name and is based upon three paintings by the sixteenth century German artist Mathias Grunewald"s (the opera"s protagonist) Isenheim altarpiece.

Popular music as routine music

The word "program music" is not typically used in speaking of renowned music, but the tradition of completely orchestral regime music is continued in piece for jazz orchestra, many notably number of pieces by fight it out Ellington. Crucial pieces in renowned music frequently have a descriptive title which argues that they could be categorized as program music, and also several crucial albums space completely committed to some programmatic idea (for example, China by Vangelis or The songs of far-off Earth by Mike Oldfield).

Some category of renowned music are much more likely 보다 others to involve programmatic elements. These incorporate ambient, new age, surf rock, jazz fusion, gradual rock, arts rock and various category of techno music.

Progressive absent groups and musicians throughout the 1970s in certain experimented with regime music, among which to be Rush"s Jacob"s Ladder (1980), which mirrors clear influences of Smetana"s Má vlast ("My Homeland") (1874-1879). The English trio, Emerson, Lake and also Palmer developed a version of Modeste Mussorgsky"s pictures at one Exhibition.

Is every music program music?

Some philosophers argue the there is indeed no such thing as true "absolute music" and that music always conveys or evokes emotions. If non-professional listener often case that music has definition (to them), "new" musicologists, such together Susan McClary (1999), argue that so-called "abstract" techniques and structures room actually very politically and also socially charged, also gendered. This might be attached to a much more general argument against abstraction, together as note Johnson"s dispute that it is, "necessary...for summary meaning...to have a bodily basis." (McClary, 1991) However, a more loosely specific meaning of pure music as music i m sorry was no composed through a programmatic intent or setup in mind might be adopted. Others argue that music may convey or express certain images or moods quite apart indigenous what the composer intended.

More classic listeners often refuse these views sharply, asserting the music deserve to be meaningful, as well as deeply emotional, while gift essentially about itself (notes, themes, keys, and also so on), and without any connection come the political and societal disputes of our own day.

As such, most timeless music is absolute music, as is argued by titles which frequently consist simply of the type of composition, a number designation within the composer"s oeuvre, and also its key. Bach"s Concerto for two Harpsichords in C Minor, BWV 1060; Mozart"s Piano Sonata in C Major, K. 545, and also Beethoven"s Symphony No. 7 in A significant (Opus 92) space all examples of pure music. When the dispute is of interest to many, for helpful purposes many scholars usage the hatchet "program music" in the narrow sense defined above.

The importance of program music

The principle of regime music was particularly attractive come composers who wanted come pair your music come a story, an idea, a scene or a poem. Such music had qualities to imply or evoke an image, even if it is it to be a only imitation of organic sounds, i.e. Bird calls, or using descriptive melodies, harmonies or rhythms to create a mood, feeling or setting for a story, idea, step or poetic connotation, i.e. The flow of a river to the sea. The is the combination of miscellaneous arts into one i beg your pardon inspires descriptive music from coloristic resources.

Program music plainly lives ~ above today particularly in movie soundtracks, i m sorry often feature ultra-modern sounding atonal programmatic music.

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