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Music - Program Notes : Home
Tips, guidelines, and resources for writing recital and jury program notes
These resources are useful starting points for researching topics related to music. They include information on composers, specific works, musical genres, instruments, etc.
A collection of more than 461,000 full-text biographies. Find biographies of interest by searching or browsing 30+ genre categories, including actors, authors, composers, explorers, figures relevant to U.S. & world history, inventors, musicians, Presidents of the United States, current world leaders and many others.
A full-text archive of over 1,000 of the best scholarly journals in the social sciences, humanities, mathematics, life sciences, etc. Full-text is available from the first issue, but does not include the most recent 2-5 years.
“Program notes should briefly recount the circumstances of composition and first performance of the work, its scoring, and, if useful, its publication...Try to suggest to audience members two or three particular things to listen for, in an attempt to engage their ears” (Kern, 2008, 81-82). Holoman, D. Kern, Writing about Music: A Style Sheet. CA: University of California Press, 2008.
Part 1: Piece identification
Complete title with appropriate keys, numbers, opus numbers, and catalog numbers
Date of composition (if known)
Composer's full name, birth- death dates
Movements or song titles to be performed
Your name and instrument
Your accompanist's name and instrument, if needed
Program Notes, Parts 2-4
Part 2: Biographical and historical information
When/where did the composer live?
What events in his/her life may have influenced the composition?
What was happening in surrounding environment (significant historical events) that may have impacted him/her?
Is this a well-known or little-known piece by the composer? Why?/Why not?
Part 3: Musical analysis and interpretation
What are key musical elements of the piece? This may include elements such as form, rhythm, melody, harmony and accompaniment.
What do you hope to express to the audience through your interpretation? What should the audience listen for?
Access the full-text for more than 400 newspapers and other sources. Includes: USA Today, The Christian Science Monitor, and The Times (London); plus transcripts from CNN, National Public Radio, CBS News, Fox News, CNBC, etc.