Composition Tip #24: Program Notes!

Writing

(Photo credit: jjpacres)

If you have published a work in any form, make sure that the publisher (even if the publisher is you) gets copies of your new work off to as many music reviewers as possible (for instance, just about every instrument has an instrumental society that has a journal that has a section devoted to reviewing newly published works). It’s always been a mystery to me why the vast majority of published compositions seem to have no information on the composer or any words from the composer on the work. Make sure that your publisher includes both.

Retrato do compositor francês e virtuose da vi...

Marin Marais

Because you can help a music reviewer do his job (which is to tell everyone how marvelous you and your compositions are) by having informative and interesting program notes that tell some important bio information about you and about what’s going on in your piece and what you had in mind when you wrote it. Be detailed and lively without being too technical; program notes are more engaging when they have a touch of gossip in them (rather than straight-from-Grove’s style chunks of dry information), something on the order of: “Marin Marais was most notable for having written a musical accompaniment to a narration of a gall bladder operation.” Or: “Beethoven was just a young whippersnapper of 29 when he wrote the piece; he was known more for his amazing improvisations than his compositions at the time. That would soon change.”

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