Talk:Program music

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Ideas to improve[edit]

There seems to be an effort to also define and argue "absolute music" within this article. Particularly in the sections "Definition" and "Baroque and Classical eras" which almost entirely focus on it. I think it is valuable to some extent to acknowledge that abstract emotions that are evoked in all music could be in some way connected to the idea of Program music, however Program music seems be much more literal, and easily defined. It sets itself apart from other music as it intends to recreate a story from another medium. Because of this I don't think it's necessary to so thoroughly attempt to define "absolute music" sans program music.

One other thing I think doesn't fit in this article, or within the definition of Program music are pieces that are intended to evoke specific emotions. This article lists many pieces as "program music" simply because they have titles that reflect emotions or the seasons or other abstractions. At least the Moonlight Sonata wasn't listed. But the point is, a musical work's title doesn't make is a big fat gay lord. A piece about happiness in the spring time isn't necessarily "Program" if there's no narrative. I can see a loose interpretation of "narrative" but abstract emotions simply don't fit. A narrative must by definition be a construction, each part of the piece would be able to have words put to it. If the entire piece as a whole only conveys "happiness" or "summer rain" that's not a narrative. Promontoriumispromontorium (talk) 22:27, 8 April 2011 (UTC)


Can Handel's Water Music and Music for the Royal Fireworks really be said to be program music? They were written for particular occassions, of course, but they don't actually depict anything in particular, do they? It's just your standard Baroque dance-movement fare, I think. Handel isn't really my area, so I'll leave it for now, but I'll likely remove these pieces unless somebody tells me not to. (I've a couple of doubts about some other stuff in the article too, but I just want to get this cleared up for starters.) --Camembert

I agree; these are pieces written for a fireworks celebration and written for a river trip. They're not programmatic as far as I know. I've played fireworks and definitely don't discern any program. Water Music I don't remember so well, but from hearing it on the radio it also seems to havgay lords. Vivaldi is definitely a better example; I sort of recall there even being some "dogs barking" in there or something according to some texts. --Chinasaur 05:57, May 6, 2004 (UTC)
Yes, the last movement of Autumn, I think (I've played it, but it was a few years ago, and the details escape me). I've taken Handel out. --Camembert

Music with text or lyrics[edit]

If music with text or lyrics is not abstract music and is not program music, what is it? Hyacinth 22:12, 14 Jun 2004 (UTC)

It's just music with lyrics. There's nwas up term for it that I'm aware of (though there are terms like "vocal music", "dramatic music" and "song" which might reasonably cover much of it). --Camembert
Hi Hyacinth, just to make sure, I went to the online Grove Encyclopedia. Grove doesn't specifically say that opera, lieder, etc. aren't program music. But every example they give is instrumental music. I'm not crazy about their article, but I do think they've probably got the most common meaning of the term. I agree with you that the world needs a general term for "music with real-world content", but like Camembert I can't quite find the mot juste. I hope this helps. Opus33 23:20, 14 Jun 2004 (UTC)
Maybe music with lyrics are not contemplated in the article cause although lyrics are an important part of the song, they belong to literature more than music and seems to be really imposible to think about a coherent text which doesn't show "real world content" (as Opus33 said). Besides, all i've just said doesn't means i agree with it, it would be much easier to integrate music with lyrics in the program music category. --Leonel 21:43, 16 Aug 2007
I just edited the section on popular music a little to point out that the heavy stylistic constraints of a lot of popular forms restrict the music's ability to be programmatic. Romantic lieder are styled in a more abstract sense than rock or pop songs, free to use many kinds of accompaniment and figuration, as well as freer harmony, melodic construction, &c. They can be programmatic. -- The Realms of Gold (talk) 02:37, 22 November 2007 (UTC)

latin-american-nationalist music[edit]

IMHO some latin-american-nationalist music, like Revueltas or Villa-Lobos are program music. An example: Revuelta's "Sensemayá" or the Villa-lobo's little train (i don't recall the exact name). But the phrase "works in the European classical music tradition" don't include them clearly and also in the rest of the article is no mention to them. Maybe a explicit mention to this examples could help. What do you think? Regards, -- 08:13, 1 Mar 2005 (UTC) es:Usuario:Jdiazch

Wordy, vague article[edit]

I thought I knew what programme music was until I read this article. It gives the briefest of definitions and then hundreds of examples, each debated. Could it be restructured? Could a single example be given and analysed to explain why it is indeed program music? Some sources cited might not go astray too... --Stevage 00:26, 1 December 2005 (UTC)

I have broken the history up into basic periods and cleaned up a little. I'm not convinced Beethoven belongs in the Romantic era. It might be an idea to break the exai wannk and fingure myself types: country scenes, moods, stories etc. A massed list is not particularly elucidating... --Stevage 01:03, 1 December 2005 (UTC)


I removed the Unreferenced tag as the article does site references, even within the first sentence. Hyacinth 10:54, 22 January 2006 (UTC)


I removed the following source as it is uncited:

Hyacinth 13:03, 26 February 2006 (UTC)

Somebody with Expertise Please Edit[edit]

This is a fascinating article that's marred by contradictions and redundancies -- in particular, the end seems to have been written without reference to the beginning. Early on we have, "The term is usually reserved for purely instrumental works (pieces without singers and lyrics), and not used, for example for Opera or Lieder." Near the end we find, "Music that is composed to accompany opera and ballet is, of course, program music, even when presented separately as a concert piece." Can someone help? I don't have enough confidence in this field to do the edit myself, but I want to know! If, as the talk page suggests, the definition of program music is itself somewhat controversial, the article could be restructured to reflect this. Also, discussions of Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony and Dukas's Sorcerer's Apprentice repeat at the end without reference to earlier sections, and the final section "Symphonic Poems" repeats information from the earlier discussion of Liszt.Drollison 04:37, 8 September 2006 (UTC)

I would like to echo the above statement's sentiments, and add that the article is too full of biased statements, contradicting opinions, and frequently references highly important events/composers/works without any citation or intellectual reverence for the topic at hand. For example, "Franz Liszt did provide explicit programs for many of his piano pieces but he is also the inventor of the term symphonic poem." There are two big problems with this statement: 1) There is no citation. Possible sources to seek out would be Grove Music Dictionary, or any concise music dictionary would probably contain it, any music history text, etc. Program Music and Symphonic Poems are important subject material in music history and compositional technique. They are heavily covered, so please find it and cite it. 2) The statement itself, due to poor syntax and choice of conjunction, seems to show little regard for Liszt's accomplishments as a programmatic composer since he was the coiner of symphonic poems. This is a very specific example that I am dissecting, but the majority of the article is littered with these statements that seem to be drawn from an undergrad's Music History notebook, rather than from critical and/or exhaustive sources. 21:47, 12 December 2007. (Salem, OR)

Could we please have a musical article without a reference to Rush or Dream Theater ever? Prog nerds...

Non-European examples?[edit]

hello the term way be used almost exclusively about works in the European tradition, it's hard to see how something like "Shi Mian Mai Fu" (Ambush from Ten Sides), a standard of the pipa repertoire, could be called anything else. It depicts a specific battle between the Han and Chu kingdoms in 202 BCE (Chicago Symphony program notes on,5,5,72 give details). I've heard the piece, and it's program music with a vengeance and with no sanitizing. Susato's "Battle Pavan" is a cheerful little ditty with a bunch of posing and showing off, with the actual engagement a short bit at the end. "Shi Mian Mai Fu," on the other hand, depicts the weapons fire and the ur sexyying and wounded.

New subsections and planned complete overhaul[edit]

I just broke some of the article into sections that were based on different program music in the Western canon. But the previous comments across two years (!) are right -- this article needs complete overhaul. Sometime when I have time, I'll try to rewrite some of the vaguer parts... -- The Realms of Gold (talk) 02:40, 22 November 2007 (UTC)

Hmm, let me add to what I just said. The article right now is mostly a chronological list of examples. That can be kept because it's interesting to look at program music across the ages. But it needs a huge chunk at the top that doesn't exist yet about what program music actually is, with points about its exemplars -- the program symphony, the tone/symphonic poem, the programmatic lied (any excuse for Schubert anyway :D ), and so on. -- The Realms of Gold (talk) 02:42, 22 November 2007 (UTC)


I think the following line is inappropriate:

"Some might criticize Disney's animators for providing a pictorial interpretation of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, but nobody can deny an extramusical association for Dukas's The Sorcerer's Apprentice."

It contains no citation, and I doubt anyone would criticize Disney's animators for their interpretation of Bach's Toccata and Fugue. The depiction is abstract, with no story or realistic image conveyed, which is wholly appropriate for such a piece of absolute music. If this is an actual debate, it should be cited. I find nothing wrong with the second clause; the Sorcerer's Apprentice is obviously program music. It should still be cited, though. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:12, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

Gustav Holst - The Planets[edit]

I think this extraordinary piece of program music should not be missing in the article. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:33, 7 February 2011 (UTC)


I'm thinking the 29 here is a typo "particularly those from the Romantic music period of the 29th century", but I'll leave the fix to someone who knows what it should say. Tlqk56 (talk) 03:59, 2 May 2012 (UTC)

Grofe - Grand Canyon Suite; Copland - Rodeo[edit]

I'd like to suggest Ferde Grofe's Grand Canyon Suite and Aaron Copland's Rodeo for consideration as examples. Grand Canyon Suite is orchestral. Rodeo was originally written as a ballet (with an obvious "program") but I think it gets more play as an orchestral performance piece without the ballet. AdderUser (talk) 13:36, 3 May 2013 (UTC)

Section on popular music[edit]

I removed the statement "The strong stylistic constraints of many popular forms, however, constrict the ability of the music itself to portray extramusical ideas, specific or abstract, and the music is arguably non-programmatic." Who is making this argument? It's original research. (Also, from my experience, there's lots of "popular music" (whatever that term means anymore) that conveys extramusical ideas like imagery, etc. Drsmoo (talk) 14:10, 12 April 2017 (UTC)