Program Notes - George Bernard Shaw

Jan 16, 2018

Credit SC Public Radio/Mary Noble Ours

If you’re allergic to highly technical program notes for classical music concerts, you’re not alone. Most musicians I know find such notes boring and irrelevant, and most non-musicians find them useless, not to mention seriously off-putting. Well, it turns out it’s an old problem, as I discovered when I read a wonderful essay by George Bernard Shaw from 1896. 


“[Thirty years ago],” Shaw wrote, “the average programmist would unblushingly write, ‘Here the composer, by one of those licenses [which cannot be too carefully avoided], has abruptly introduced the dominant seventh of the key of C Major into the key of A flat, in order to recover, by a forced modulation, the key relationship proper to the second subject of a movement in F: an awkward device which he might have spared himself by simply introducing his second subject in its true key of C.’” And Shaw’s verdict on the value of such a passage? Quote: “I could teach [this style] to a poodle in two hours.”

This has been A Minute with Miles – a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.