Can someone clever help??


I need to find out a few things about Programme Music for school. I can't get to the library tomorrow and I can't find it on the internet.

All I know is that it's music written that's supposed to represent something; a story for example, as opposed to absolute music which is written for the sake of having music!

Please help


James McFadyen

New Member
Althogh I don't fall into the catagory as being clever, I tell you anyway :wink:

Programme music is music written to depict action. It may be a television show, a play, etc.

In a film you've got the main theme, then you've got the programme music in the actual film. Programme music in film (or whatever) basically sets the scene (usually wthout intruding on what's going on visually).

So, in a film, the music for the love scenes and action scenes and so on are the programme music. Leitmotifs are extemely prominent in programme music.

In non film-type contexts (ie music which stands alone) programme music is used to depict and describe objects, settings, etc. Although a whole work set to describe a scene or object or event is known as a tone poem, which Tchaikovsky was famous for writing back in his day.



I'm looking more at the Classical side to it as opposed to the film/TV side. Even so, what you've told me is great. We're looking at Berliose atm and the Harrold in Italy 3rd movement, which is (so I'm told :roll: ) programme music.

Thanks again :D


Active Member
The term ‘programme music’ was introduced by Liszt, who also invented the expression Symphonic poem to describe what is perhaps the most characteristic instance of it. He defined a programme as a ‘preface added to a piece of instrumental music, by means of which the composer intends to guard the listener against a wrong poetical interpretation, and to direct his attention to the poetical idea of the whole or to a particular part of it’. He did not regard music as a direct means of describing objects; rather he thought that music could put the listener in the same frame of mind as could the objects themselves.

Liszt thought of himself as putting forward a new ideal for symphonic music, an ideal that had been foreshadowed in Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony and in certain works of Mendelssohn, Schumann and Berlioz, but which he nevertheless thought to be absent from the body of classical music. He considered the idea of exalting the narrative associations of music into a principle of composition to be incompatible with the continuance of traditional symphonic forms. The term ‘programme music’ came to be applied not only to music with a story but also to music designed to represent a character (Strauss's Don Juan and Don Quixote) or to describe a scene or phenomenon (Debussy's La mer). What is common to all these is the attempt to ‘represent’ objects in music.

Film music and Incidental music doesn't really qualify as programme music according to Liszt's definition, it is more simply descriptive. Berlioz was a colleague of Liszt (and Wagner) in the group who considered themselves to be composers of 'the music of the future' so we can assume that Berlioz would be broadly symapthetic to Liszt's ideas. All three used leitmotifs or idee fixe themes to indicate certain moods, ideas or objects - this is certainly true of Fantastique and Harold.

Best of luck!



I wish TMP was around when I was doing my homework!!!!....come to think of it, I wish computers were around too...ha ha!


Staff member
Straightmute seems to have summed things up very well. I would just add that, although the term "programme music" dates from the 19th century, composers in earlier days also wrote music that could be described as programme music, such as Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" and numerous keyboard and string pieces with titles such as "La Battaglia" etc.


Active Member
From reading this topic i'm guessing that "Blitz" is a piece of program music too :?


Night on the Bare Mountain is quality. I have managed to get hold of the Sop music for it and I'm very pleased because I can play most of it.

Even though my music teacher plays in a Brass Band, I bet I'd get some funny looks if I said that piece was programme music! I'll have to try that :D

Thanks everyone. I think I'll come on here more often for help!!! Whilst I'm at it, anyone fancy having a look at my latest (not so masterpiece :oops: ) composition!!!! :D


Active Member
im doin that at the moment for a project im studying call of the cossacks and karAminskaya


Well-Known Member
homocidalbennyboy said:
From reading this topic i'm guessing that "Blitz" is a piece of program music too :?

I heard that the title was about the last thing to be fixed - DB originally submitted it to the National Finals people with some bizarre title like 'Lip Transplant', but they objected...

Anyone confirm this?


The Cornet King

Active Member
I can confirm the title was indeed going to be Lip Transplant, however the title and the ending of the piece was vetoed by the publishers as it applied techniques that were at the time unfamiliar to brass players. (what they were i do not know).

Blitz...great piece :D

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