What is Program Music

The art of rendering narrating a story with the help of music is referred as Program Music. It is a sub genre of music which endeavors to showcase a musical narration of a story or an event. Many times it was seen that the narrative was presented to the audience as a program music. Many musicians used their life or any event in their life in the program music. The Program music is not related to the opera as it comes under absolute music.

Emergence of Program Music

Notably program music lived through three eras, The renaissance era, classical era, romanticism era. The program music started its journey in the Renaissance era where a good amount of program music was written and was performed via harpsichord. Notable works of  Martin Peerson and William Byrd was composed in this era. Program music such as The fall of the leafe and The Battel remains a monumental historical piece.

In the Classical era program music lost its aura and was were not performed frequently. Other form of music such as sonata form and absolute music started to challenge this art form and the latter was completely in this era. However, famous music composer, Joseph Haydn’s early works and performance were program music and one of his famous symphonies, God and the Sinner is described as a program music. Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf, a minor classical era composer made the maximum program music during the classical era.

Program music at its peak

The romanticism era saw a sudden revival in program music and this the period where this art form prospered. Musicians of this era brought a gradual change in the art form as they performed long instrumentals which showcased their view via images or plays. The dynamics of the program music was completely overhauled as plays, poetries, paintings, acting etc. were fused in this art form.

The romanticism era also saw the emergence many legendary musicians such as Ludvig van Beethoven, Hector Berlioz, and Richard Strauss.

Beethoven was reluctant to produce programs music but his symphony no.6, pastoral is a program music. Hector Berlioz became famous with his program music named Symphonie fantastique. Symphonie fantastique is one of the famous program music and narrates an intimate love story.  Then came Richard Strauss, who is described as the best program music composer by music historians. His notable work was Tod und Verklärung that shows a story of a old man dying and entering heaven.

Program music in popular music  and in 20th century    

Although, program music methods or portrayals are not seen in any type of popular music but the jazz orchestra does look a piece of traditional program music but not in pure form. Alban Bergs work is considered as program music and it was discovered in 1977. Micheal Colgrass’s Winds Of Naugal contains pieces of program music.

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