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Program Notes

Guide for Writing Program Notes

Research Tips

  • Gather more information than you need.
  • Keep track of your sources.
  • Research the genre and time period of the composition.
    • This is particularly helpful for compositions and composers who are not well represented in scholarship.

For help with searching OneSearch, finding journal articles, and more, go to the Music Research Guide!

Types of Sources to Use

Writing high quality program notes can be difficult because information about pieces (especially contemporary ones) tends to be hard to find in one place. There are many sources that you can use to find accurate information about the works you choose to perform, you just have to know where to look! Sample sources could include:

  • Music dictionaries, encyclopedias, textbooks, chronologies, repertoire guides, and bibliographies
    • Repertoire Guides and Bibliographies can be found in the ML 128 section of the Music Reference
  • Books or book chapters on the genre and/or composer
    • The Cambridge Companions to X (e.g., The Cambridge Companion to the String Quartet) contain excellent essays on the genre being covered.
    • Also look for The Cambridge Histories of X (e.g., The Cambridge History of Eighteenth-Century Music), which also have excellent essays that may be of use.
  • Scores
  • Journal articles on the genre and/or composer
  • Recordings and liner notes
  • Newspaper Reviews (particularly for contemporary compositions)
  • Correspondence and diaries
  • Blogs and composer websites with trusted sources
  • Documentaries
  • Request materials from outside of Queens College via Inter-Library Loan

For help with searching OneSearch, finding journal articles, and more, go to the Music Research Guide!


Streaming Audio & Video (with Liner Notes!)

Contemporary Compositions

Finding information for contemporary compositions can be challenging. Try some of the following sources:

  • Books or articles on the genre or time period of the composition.
  • The composer's website.
  • If the composition has been recorded, use the recording liner notes.
  • Find reviews of the composition (either a live performance or a recording) in newspapers or journals.
  • If you can find the composer's email address, write them for more information.