Program music

Program music or programme music is a type of art music that attempts to musically render an extra-musical narrative. The narrative itself might be offered to the audience in the form of program notes, inviting imaginative correlations with the music. A classic example is Hector Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique, which relates a series of morbid fantasies concerning the unrequited love of a sensitive poet involving murder, execution, and the torments of Hell. The genre culminates in the symphonic works of Richard Strauss that include narrations of the adventures of Don Quixote, Till Eulenspiegel, the composer's domestic life, and an interpretation of Nietzsche's philosophy of the Superman. Following Strauss, the genre declined and new works with explicitly narrative content are rare. Nevertheless the genre continues to exert an influence on film music, especially where this draws upon the techniques of late romantic music.

The term is almost exclusively applied to works in the European classical music tradition, particularly those from the Romantic music period of the 19th century, during which the concept was popular, but pieces which fit the description have long been a part of music. The term is usually reserved for purely instrumental works (pieces without singers and lyrics), and not used, for example for Opera or Lieder. Single movement orchestral pieces of program music are often called symphonic poems.

Absolute music, in contrast, is intended to be appreciated without any particular reference to the outside world.

Renaissance period

Composers of the Renaissance wrote a fair amount of program music, especially for the harpsichord, including works such as Martin Peerson's The Fall of the Leafe and William Byrd's The Battell. For the latter work, the composer provided this written description of the sections: "Souldiers sommons, marche of footemen, marche of horsmen, trumpetts, Irishe marche, bagpipe and the drone, flute and the droome, marche to the fighte, the battels be joyned, retreat, galliarde for the victorie."

Surveying the literature on this subject will reveal several sources erroneously stating that of this is Marin Marais's "Le tableau de l'Operation de la Taille", which describes bladder-stone surgery.

Other Languages
čeština: Programní hudba
Deutsch: Programmmusik
Esperanto: Programmuziko
한국어: 표제 음악
magyar: Programzene
日本語: 標題音楽
norsk nynorsk: Programmusikk
Simple English: Programme music
slovenčina: Programová hudba
српски / srpski: Програмска музика
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Programska muzika
svenska: Programmusik
українська: Програмна музика
中文: 标题音乐