Program Music Research Paper

  • Length: 7 pages
  • Sources: 7
  • Subject: Music
  • Type: Research Paper
  • Paper: #42920861

Excerpt from Research Paper :

Program Music

Roles of The Program Music

Program music refers to a form of music which tries to deliver an additional musical story musically. This story involved could be rendered to its audience as program notes, causing imaginative comparisons with its music.

This concept of program music enjoys more fame and application in the European classical music world, especially during the height of romantic works in the 1800s. Program music was a very common concept in those times. It was commonly used in reference to solely instrumental music works which are music pieces that doesn't have any lyrics. However, it was also used to describe the lieder and opera music type (Rodgers, 2009).

The single progression orchestral program music works are symphonic poems and the complete works is produced to be enjoyed and heralded without any external references. The Hector Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique is a suitable instance of program music as well as its additional musical story. This artist's work has drug-induced succession of grisly fantasies based on the unreciprocated feeling of a touchy poet and it contained execution, murder and the suffering in hell. The heights of the genre are seen from the symphonic writings, the daily lives of the composers and an explanation of what the superman means based on the Nietzsche's philosophy (Rodgers, 2009).

Program music currently enjoys popularity in the music used in films and it is used in capturing attention by applying the method of last-minute romantic melodies.

Programme music refers to the suggestive and descriptive music which incites visual images in the mind or tells a story. The story line or descriptive idea is referred to as the Programme. Instrumental music that doesn't have a Programme and is independent is called absolute music. Descriptive music has been in existence for a long time however the orchestra-based Programme music increased in popularity in the romantic age. It was during this time that music established strong connections with painting and literature.

In some cases, the Programme gets developed based on the title. For example, the title of the Italian and Scottish symphonies written by Mendelssohn seemed to be where the inspiration came from instead of a storyline. The writes equally applied the Programme concept to analyze issues thoroughly. An appropriate instance can be seen in the case of the Symphonie Fantastique written by Berlioz (Rodgers, 2009).

Examples of the popular musical devices employed in rendering the inspiration and story are musical motifs also called motives. Motifs refer to brief rhythmic or melodic ideas which are used in symbolizing images or characters. Theme transformation refers to a situation where a theme experiences some alterations to represent a situation. Orchestral color means using instruments for representing images or characters. The direct reproduction of sounds like that of thunder or a bird singing and the employment of tempo, harmony, key and dynamics are just few of the methods applied in producing programme music (Blom, Bennett, & Stevenson, 2016).

Orchestral Programme music

Three major types of orchestral music exist. They include the concert poem, tone poem and the Programme symphony.

Tone poems

Tone poem also called symphonic poem refers to a lengthy single work for the orchestra. These tone poems often employ huge orchestras large in size and they are not strict as regards their structure. Liszt, the composer was well known to have written a number of these poems and even The Hamlet illustrates the unique Shakespearean character. Another artist well known for writing these illustrative tone poems is Richard Strauss. Conventionally, this music's function is to show the important characters present within the society. They show things which the society have heralded such as clean environment, progress, weddings and marriage, culture and as well the heroes of the society. This is seen in the reference to weddings, rivers and the reproduction of the German legend.


This is an orchestral piece which is rendered just before an opera starts in the 19th century. These pieces were called concert overtures and they were orchestral music pieces featuring a single movement. Overtures were independently written, they were used in concert performances were not linked to operas.

An illustration showing members of family learning music

Examples of concert overtures are the 1812 overture written by Tchaikovsky which honors the 1812 retreat of Napoleon from Moscow. Apart from this, it integrates the Russian and French national anthems. It features an enormous orchestra which includes cathedral bells, cannon fire and a military band.

Programme symphony

A programme symphony involves a large number of movements; it is considerably similar to the regular symphony plan and is inspired by an extra-musical factor. A programme symphony has a large variety of roles which include showing a love obsession and a very good instance is Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique. This feature of depicting love in this popular program music is realized by displaying the opium-induced dreams. The artists employ a variety of descriptive titles in rendering this theme.

Personal expression was a main use of program music. Artists employed it to display a number of issues which intrigued them and these included leadership opinions, love life, marriage, romance issues and battle victories. Program music also gave the composers with an opening for creating new harmonies, ranges, rhythms, notations and forms.

Program music aided industrial development and with growth in its demand, there arose a need to establishing printing shops which would convert the music into text. This increase in the music demand also caused industries which were producing instruments like guitar, keyboard, lute and violins to have their hands full. The production of these instruments gave composers and artists higher possibilities for researching and producing more music. Other developments experienced included theatre and parlor constructions as well as other musical venues.

Program music was used for both holy and secular purposes. Within the 16th and the 19th century, program music was the dominant trend in the churches and it was within this period that brass and woodwind musical instruments were invented. These instruments improved the music played in churches as they aided artists in reaching functional tonality (Pavlou, & Athansiou, 2014). Within this period of the boom of program music, the church grew to be a very powerful group within Europe. Program music gave illustrations of the importance of religion in the lives of people and it attained popularity during those times. Majorly, the music was in reference to the Roman Catholic Church, the major focus of people during that period (Moss, 2017).

By using program music, the composers were able to portray the impact religion has as well as the strength of the church (2016 Summer study). The composers were committed to church development and they devoted several hours to creating music to be played in churches, an action that caused them to incur large costs. Furthermore they applied their creativity in framing in line with the worshippers' preference. Generally, they were able to develop a detailed framework aimed at this task. They used it to showcase the need for anyone to praise God in their craft. Moreso, this music was used in assisting worshippers to understand the…

Sources Used in Document:


'2016 Summer study: Teaching Music's annual listing of summer music programs' 2016, Teaching Music, 4, p. 51, Academic OneFile, EBSCOhost, viewed 27 June 2017.

Blom, D, Bennett, D, & Stevenson, I 2016, 'The Composer's Program Note for Newly Written Classical Music: Content and Intentions', Frontiers in Psychology, Academic OneFile, EBSCOhost, viewed 27 June 2017.

Garrett, S 2010, 'The Role of Community Music in Helping Disadvantaged Young People in South Wales to Confront Social Exclusion', International Journal Of Community Music, 3, 3, pp. 371-377, ERIC, EBSCOhost, viewed 27 June 2017.

Moss, PJ 2017, 'Program Music', Notes, 3, p. 550, Academic OneFile, EBSCOhost, viewed 27 June 2017.

Cite This Research Paper:

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