program music

noun
music intended to convey an impression of a definite series of images, scenes, or events.
Compare absolute music.


Origin:
1880–85

Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Encyclopedia Britannica
Encyclopedia

program music

instrumental music that carries some extramusical meaning, some "program" of literary idea, legend, scenic description, or personal drama. It is contrasted with so-called absolute, or abstract, music, in which artistic interest is supposedly confined to abstract constructions in sound. It has been stated that the concept of program music does not represent a genre in itself but rather is present in varying degrees in different works of music. Only in the so-called Romantic era, from Beethoven to Richard Strauss, is the program an essential concept, and even there it leaves its mark on much music commonly considered "pure" or "absolute."

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
The overture, practically program music, greets the arrival of the returned captives with a rush of fanfares.
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