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Program Notes

October 14, 2011

imageMy parents got new furniture in their living room, so for a few days all of the stuff stored in drawers and shelves ended up in piles waiting for new homes. One of the gems was this collectible program for Bruce Springsteen’s Tunnel of Love Express Tour (interesting to me, the tour features the E Street Band, but the album only only include a few of the members sparingly).


I found this while trying to decide if I wanted to create program notes for the upcoming Beta Test concert. I’ve recently seen a lot of hate for program notes. They’re bland and a barrier between the audience and performers. So, I was planning to tweet some snippets and then collect my thoughts to discuss on stage during the performance. But then, as if it was planted for me to see, I found The Boss’s connection to his adoring fans.


There’s a short essay on what Bruce was trying to do with the Tunnel of Love album and lyrics sprinkled around phots that evoke the musical material. My favorite is the bride with the nuclear reactors in the background, but there are also your typical Bruce is a rock star hanging out in rock star places images. It’s not ground breaking, but it is effective.

I think that is the problem with most classical program notes. It’s not that program notes are evil, but they’re often ineffective. Trained musicians often aren’t taught how to communicate with the written word or striking images, and if a performing organization is going to create program notes, they need to focus on using them for what they do best. Longwinded dense essays on the history of a piece of music can definitely send the wrong signals about classical music being a living art form. But that isn’t the only way ensembles can use printed material accompanying a concert. I resist the notion that sharing your passion for music is detrimental if it is printed inside a booklet.


(You can check out the program notes I wrote for the concert here. You can also pick up tickets on Ticket Leap. Hope to see you there!)


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