Robert Schumann called taking the titles of musical compositions too literally “clumsy.” Schumann’s friend Franz Liszt, on the other hand, coined the term “program music,” and said that when a piece has a program, or story, the musical ideas should clearly reflect the unfolding of the story—although that’s the same Franz Liszt who attached a “program” to his symphonic poem Les Préludes long after he had actually written the music.
Claude Debussy certainly gave his pieces picturesque titles—think of Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, or La Mer, just to name a couple—but here’s what he himself wrote about so-called “descriptive” music: “Does one render the mystery of the forest by recording the height of the trees? It is more a process where the limitless depths of the forest give free rein to the imagination.”
A Minute with Miles – a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.