Program Music Vs pure Music

There are countless different kinds of music that space composed of a wide selection of forms and also structures. Music the is often associated with a certain narrative or also image falls under the large heading of ‘program music’ or music that has programmatic elements. ~ above the opposing next of this compositional contest stands ‘absolute’ music. This term has at times, been coined to encapsulate any kind of music the is not programmatic in nature or intent. An ext specifically, pure music is usually assumed of as music that stands ~ above its own two music feet without the require for a storyline to cave its notes onto.

You are watching: How is absolute music different from program music


These quick sketches offer an entry right into the two different kinds the music the I will certainly delve right into in this article, highlighting similarities and differences and also hopefully provoking further exploration and also listening.

Program Music vs pure Music

If routine music is ever the subject for discussion, human being tend towards reasoning that it is a layout of composition the emerged during the Romantic duration of music. Certainly, over there is an exceptional gamut of piece from that era that are programmatic, even if in ~ times your composers denied it, but this is not the full picture. Depending on how far ago in musical history you space willing come travel, composers have actually been writing music come a regimen for a really long time.


In west music at least, the idea of routine music was not strange or unknown. Take for example the great English composer william Byrd. A piece titled ‘The fight Suite’ is completely programmatic. Byrd gives clear titles because that each ar such as, ‘The Soldiers Summons’, and also ‘The March to The Fight’. This work-related was because that harpsichord and also appeared as component of the well known Fitzwilliam Virginal Book. Music the depicted fight was famous in the 17th Century and also Byrd would have actually been mindful of this and also even indicate that lock may have actually been supplied for an ext theatrical purposes.

During the Baroque era, us come across even an ext well-known programmatic music consisting of Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’,


and perhaps also Handel’s oratorio title ‘Israel In Egypt’.


The timeless Era does no boast the variety of easily determined programmatic compositions but it is assumed that some of Haydn’s at an early stage Symphonies may have a programmatic element in them, although Haydn self gave tiny credence to this effect. Beethoven that spans the Classical and Romantic periods of music can surely it is in counted as a composer who contributed to programmatic music. Also though there space as many arguments versus a purely programmatic structure to his ‘Pastoral’ Symphony, the ‘Eroica’ or perhaps the 3rd ‘ Leonore’ overture. Mendelssohn can also be included to the growing list v works like his ‘Hebrides Overture’


that led the method for extended, cyclic creates such together the imposing ‘Symphonie Fantastique’ by Hector Berlioz.

The programmatic perform expands almost exponentially from here with the number of compositions including Liszt’s ‘Faust Symphony’,


and Richard Strauss’s ‘Til Eugenspiegel’,


or ‘Don Quixote’,

and the ever-popular ‘Night top top A bare Mountain’ by usually Mussorgsky.

Each of these compositions has actually a regimen at its heart, whether it is overtly or more carefully disguised among motifs, textures, and other structures. That is often said the one means to think about programmatic music is music that could have been composed to companion a movie.

On the various other side the this music conundrum is ‘absolute music’. This type of music is not deliberately descriptive or composed to evoke a details image, story, or non-musical entity. The music merely is without the require for one explanation by title, sub-heading, or poetic text. This is no to to speak the music to be not motivated by miscellaneous ‘outside’ of music yet that this incentive no much longer holds dominance over the last piece that music. In a sense, this sort of music has remained in circulation because the very an initial pieces to be written and also it is absolutely composed today.

One example of pure music can be the compositions the the 2nd Viennese school that was pioneered by the composers Schöenberg, Berg, and Webern. Serialism to be a method of composition the Arnold Schöenberg emerged having discovered himself significantly dissatisfied with the limits, as he saw them, the tonality. Instead, Schöenberg offered equal importance to each keep in mind of the chromatic scale and dissolved every previous tonal ideas. This provided rise come music of excessive beauty but also music of remarkable dissonance and also complexity. The an outcome of this serialism to be to distance many audiences as they uncovered the music unfathomable and also unpleasant. The is in the work-related of Webern that we hear a piece of absolute music, that at times feels mathematically sound but emotionally cold and also distant.

Further, into the 20th Century, composers choose Elliot Carter and Milton Babbitt, created using almost ‘total’ serialism, virtually removing the composer from the process altogether in favor of complying with mathematical values to construct music. American composer, man Cage is known to have written music using random techniques of music generation consisting of the Chinese ‘I Ching’. This placed the composer one step more away native the compositional processes and several steps closer to an absolute, and also abstract music.

An discussion illustrating the concept of absolute music is made as soon as you consider a piece to have no definition whatsoever. Wagner felt the was an absurd idea, return Stravinsky is famously credited with saying the “Music through its really nature is incapable of expressing anything.” applying this idea that Stravinsky’s can we think about a Mozart Piano Concerto or a Bach Brandenburg Concerto to have no definition and it is in absolute.

See more: How Old Is Lee Williams The Gospel Singer Of Spiritual Qc'S, Dies

Whilst no officially program might exist, somehow it is impossible not to entrust some an interpretation to aspects of any type of of these pieces. Favor a expression in a language, you perform not speak makes no sense, girlfriend can often grasp at meaning by other way like inflexion and also tone even if you can not identify specific meaning. Music is in some means very similar as it appears to reach us in means that are essentially human in nature even if the occupational does not directly say miscellaneous specific. Even if it is you space listening to regimen music of absolute music, it seems to me the there is constantly a depth to uncover even if that is fine hidden.