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Music Performance & Pedagogy: Voice: Writing Program Notes

Program Basics

1. Performance Header

  • Name of sponsoring organization, school, or university
  • Recital title (or use solo performer's name if a recital)
  • Full date (including year), time, and place

2. Details for each work

  • Full work title, appropriate keys, opus numbers, etc.
  • Composer's full name with birth/death dates (if a living composer, put (b. YYYY) for year born)
  • Movements, song titles, or excerpts to be performed
  • Names of performers and instruments/voice type

3. Text translation for vocal music

  • Provide an idiomatic translation and the original text
  • Set in a two-column format for easy comparison

In the library...

Program Note Contents

1. Provide basic biographical information on composer(s) and the poet/librettist.

  • Be selective!
  • Nationality? Birth/death dates?
  • Studied under someone important?
  • Unique facts or personal experiences in relation to this work?

In the library...

2. Give the historical background of the work chosen.

  • What year was it composed?
  • When did the composer write the work during her/his career?
  • Did someone commission the work? Was it for a specific event or location?
  • When and where did the work premiere? Did a notable performer premiere it?
  • Does the title have specific meaning or significance?

In the library...

3. Describe how the composition is related to other composers or movements.

  • Is there a technique used in the work that is also used by a different composer?
  • Was this work influential for another composer?
  • Is this work a common example of a particular movement or school of composition?
  • Where does the work fit in the canon of work for that instrument or voice type?

In the library...

  • Search Oxford Music Online for names of a compositional techniques, intellectual movements, or schools that are relevant to the composition
  • Search SUMMON for books or articles about your work, or for CDs to read the liner notes
  • Find reviews of performances (for contemporary works). Search Factiva for New York Times, LA Times, Washington Post, and other major newspapers

4. Suggest what the audience ought to listen for in the performance.

  • Does the work have a form?
  • Anything notable about tempo changes, phrasing, modulations, or other analysis?
  • Are there unique sounds or unconventional techniques?
  • Are there characteristic intervals, pitches, tone clusters, or melodic patterns?
  • Are there notable differences in interpretation between different performers?

Provide your own analysis by visually examining the score and by listening to multiple recordings.

In the library...

  • Search SUMMON for your type of composition (songs, piano concertos, etc) and the words "analysis appreciation"
  • Search SUMMON for CDs to read liner notes for your composition

Artist Statement

Provide biographies for all performers on your recital. 

Help with Formatting & Writing