Program Notes and Concert Talks


Making a connection for the reader to the music of a composer who is living but unknown or, who lived a very long time ago can be a challenge. There are varying ways to address the issue.  Some program notes consist of scholarly information laced with interesting details about the composer and his work. Other times, program notes will discuss the theoretical underpinnings or formal structure of a work, interesting to those who are musically educated but often quite tedious for the general listening audience. Either way, the notes often focus on who, what, where and when of a composition and its creator.

I’ve often asked myself how I might make these dry, academic texts more palatable to the average audience? Recently, I’ve started talking with the audience after the concerts and realized that their interest was on the visceral, emotional and psychological effects of the music rather than the intellectual and factual aspects. To them, my program notes become a factual auxiliary to those great human questions, how and why.

How and why questions allow me to express my personal perspective and curiosity entering the realm of opinion. Then, the audience has an immediate connection and can enter into an inner dialogue of agreement and disagreement with me. In essence, the audience becomes engaged and challenged to think about the music personally as a way to gauge their agreement or disagreement with me.

To test this theory, I have engage in mini “TED talks” with my audiences this year where I choose topics about the music that are based on personal observations and performing experience. These mini talks are about 10 minutes and present ideas that are intended to require the audience to draw conclusions.  In essence, I am asking the audience to participate in the only way that a passive listener can – by thinking about and reacting to the music.

Over the course of the year, I will post my talks to this blog and call them Performance Chats. The first one was posted last week prior to this explanation entitled: Performance Chat: Art of Craft and the Aha Moment. I would be very interested to know what you think and to hear your opinions.

(aside: if you’ve never heard of TED talks be sure to look it up on the internet.  Inspiring short talks on interesting ideas)