This program note is prepared for San Francisco Symphony’s concerts, posted online a week before the concert. As this is not meant to be read during or right before the concert, it is of considerable length to provide sufficient information about the composer and the piece.
There is a good structure to it, beginning with relevant biographical narrative followed by descriptions of the piece, and finishing with the actual musical analysis. This structure seems highly effective for a wide readership, as it is suggested that conceptual text descriptions of the music reduces musically untrained audience’s enjoyment, because the musical flow is interrupted when knowledge is externally injected (Margulis, 2010: 298). Rather than forcing readers to absorb technical knowledge from the beginning, it lets them enjoy reading interesting historical and personal backgrounds in the earlier section. By the end, at which point some readers may lose their interest, those who are interested can get further in-depth information about the piece.
The content also appears excellent, as it is easy to read and requires hardly any extra research. Biography is extensive, enough to include the background of composition and interesting anecdotes such as that Bach was held under arrest when he tried to move to Cöthen or that he disliked the Princess of Anhalt-Bernburg who disliked music. The piece, then, is explained both in its entirety (as a Brandenburg Concerto set) and in separation, whereby technical terms are introduced in a wider context of musical category, and in-depth analyses can be provided for characteristics specific to the Concerto No. 3 such as numerological and orchestral construction, auditory and harmonic devices. Moreover, the bibliography at the end – which may often be omitted – is helpful for those who decide to acquire more information prior to the concert.
While this program note does not intend to be of academic standard, it successfully fulfils Scaife’s recommendations for writing professional program notes (2010). There is a logical structure pertinent to the contents, minimal use of technical words or ones accompanied by explanations, descriptions with not much abstraction, and interesting information as mentioned above (Scaife, 2010: 7-8). This program note, being a seemingly casual one open for public, therefore is a good material both as a proper program note for concert audiences and as a reference material for musicians or musical writers.
Keller, James. M. “Bach, J.S.: Brandenburg Concerto No. 3.” Program note for San Francisco Symphony. (No date). [Online]
Margulis, Elizabeth Hellmuth. “When program notes don’t help: Music descriptions and enjoyment.” Psychology of music 38, issue 3 (2010): 285-302. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0305735609351921
Scaife, Nigel. Writing Programme Notes: A Guide for Diploma Candidates. London: Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (2001).