Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting/Programme Notes for ATCL


Hi , i'm Adrian . I'm researching information regarding ATCL programme notes. and is the programme notes is all about the composer ? Do i need to briefly decribing my self ?

I'll be playing 4 of the following songs:
1)Prelude and Fugue in D minor , BWV875 - JS Bach
2)Sonata in D , K311 - Mozart
3)Nocturne in F# Minor , Op48 No.2 - Chopin
4)Vision Fugitive No.2,4,14 - Prokofiev

Hello Adrian,

The reason you're required to write programme notes on your pieces (don't refer to them as "songs" as there's no singing involved) is to demonstrate that you understand them in the context of music history and form, and can do more than play the notes.  If you haven't already, read ABRSM's pamphlet on programme notes at as it gives you a good idea of what they're looking for - TCL is a different board but its requirements aren't going to be much different.  

I usually think in terms of three paragraphs: composer, piece, description.  So the first paragraph can either be a brief biography (if the composer isn't well known) or something about the context in which the piece was written eg "When Thingie wrote this Sonata in the summer of 1884 he was already showing signs of the illness that would kill him the following year.  Despite his ill-health this was a particularly happy and productive period - he spent July and August in the little village of Plunk with his sister's family, working not only on his three Sonatas but his second Symphony and the song-cycle "My Life", which is probably his best-known work."  If you can find an interesting, illuminating quote about the piece, include it - check letter collections, diaries etc.  

The second paragraph can say something about the piece itself - is it part of a set, is it the only time he wrote in this form or for this instrument, is it typical of his style or early/late period?  Was it originally composed for the instrument or is it an arrangement (and if so, who arranged it if not the composer)?  The title may need some explanation eg what does "Visions Fugitives" mean?  It's also worth mentioning the dedicatee so be prepared to do some detective work.

Then the third paragraph can describe the piece in greater detail.  Not too much detail, mind - you're writing for intelligent, interested listeners who don't necessarily know a lot about music, so we're not talking harmonic analysis here.  Keep it broad and general - "the majestic opening section is followed by a sprightly bourree featuring a florid semiquaver treble over a descending chromatic bass" kind of thing.  Always assume there's someone in your audience who's never heard the piece before and point out features that they should listen out for.  If it's in an established musical form eg sonata form, talk about the two subjects and how they're contrasted, how material's used in the development section and whether there's a coda.

Don't leave writing them until the last minute!  Good, informative ones take time.

Hope this helps.  

Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting

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Clare Redfarn


All aspects of the academic/theoretical side of music, including harmony, counterpoint, elementary composition, history, harmonic analysis, aural training, sightreading - the lot! Please note I'm not primarily a composer so I can't help with composition beyond what's required for Grade 8 theory or A'level. And don't ask me about psychoacoustics or music psychology as I have no knowledge of, nor interest in, either subject.


57 years as pianist (soloist and accompanist); 42 years as harpsichordist (soloist and continuist); 10 years as violinist and 6 years as bassoonist (youth orchestras/chamber groups); 45 years as piano teacher, coach in performance/interpretation (all ages, instruments and levels) and private tutor (mainly the old O'level, Grade VI+ ABRSM theory/practical musicianship, A'level and undergraduates); 20 years as ballet pianist (Cecchetti syllabus).

Member of Musicians' Union in Britain 1978-1989 and 1991-2009.

I've been writing professionally since I was 20 - too many programme notes to count over the years and a number of articles. Additionally, from 1996-2000 I was a Music Assessor for London Arts and as such regularly wrote critiques of concerts given by recipients of Arts Council funding.

MA in European Cultural Policy & Administration (Warwick University, 1994)
B Mus with Honours (London University, 1977)
Postgraduate Diploma in Arts Administration (City University, 1982)
Licentiate of Royal Academy of Music in Piano Teaching (1976)
Licentiate of Royal Academy of Music in Harpsichord Teaching (1978)

Studied RAM Junior School (1966-74), then as full-time student (1974-78).

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