Abstracts of issue 19 (2007)

Julia Lazaridou-Elmaloglou

Questions on Programmatic Music

Programmatic music is music of narrative, descriptive, or representational kind. The existence of extra-musical ideas and contents in a music composition, which derive from other arts, such as poetry, painting, and literature, or from personal experiences of the composer, without resorting to singing, creates the term programme music. Usual but not necessary is the presentation of the programme at the beginning of the composition, in order to guide the listener to the correct interpretation of the extra-musical idea. Programme music flourished and became immensely popular in the second half of the nineteenth-century, although traces of it can be found as early as the end of the fifteenth and the beginning of the sixteenth century. The form in which the term is most notably applied is the symphonic poem (symphonische Dichtung), a term that was invented and cultivated by Franz Liszt. The symphonic poem is a one-movement composition, played by a symphonic orchestra, and its form and content derive from the subject it describes, narrates or represents, which has an undoubtedly extra-musical character. The idea of the symphonic poem was cultivated in countries such as Russia, Czechoslovakia, France, and Spain, but despite its popularity it did not earn a standard place in the composersí output as a form of composition. After the end of the Romantic movement it suffered a rather fast decline, mainly because the element of representation was replaced by that of expression and consequently composers chose to display their inspiration in a more internal and abstract way.

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