Friday, February 22, 2008

Program Notes

1. Program notes first appeared in the nineteenth century where they were used to make Richard Wagner's operas seem better than they sounded.

2. Program notes were also used by conservative critics in the early twentieth century to make Stravinsky's narrative pieces and ballets sound worse than they were.

3. Uppermost in the program notes for the Wagnerian operas were discussions of how so-called leitmotivs were used to help the audiences identify certain of his characters, one of who was a dwarf.

4. Under most circumstances, audiences should not require help identifying dwarfs.

5. Program notes also helped listeners identify valkurie.

6. Listeners who have had any experiences with waitresses in kosher-style delicatessens should need no leitmotiv to help identify a valkurie.

7. Program notes are progenitors of Cliffs Notes; they help people identify things.

8. Sometimes writers include program notes in stories and novels.

9. Sometimes Hillary includes program notes in debates*. (Astrisks are often used in text to denote a foot note at the bottom--or foot--of the page.)

10. Sometimes program notes are so literal that they defeat the purpose of a story.

11. Writers of stories who are also control freaks do not agree with the premise of the previous observation.

12. Sometimes writers of stories who are control freaks are the last ones to leave a party.

13. If you expect to be in bed by a reasonable hour, say 2:30 in the morning, do not invite a writer who is a control freak to your party.

14. A book filled with various program notes would give you an abundance of information about music you probably were pretty familiar with in the first place.

15. A book filled with various program notes is something you probably would not read in one sitting.

15. Most characters in most books, plays, and ballets move about with a certain demonstrable persistence.

16. This is because action is the best way of representing a character; by observing what he or she does, you are able to build a picture of that individual's intent, the better to intuit that person's place in the story.

17. Or debate.**

18. Program notes are not as necessary in the twenty-first century because readers are able to interpret what they want and who they are from the things they do and the way in which those things are done.

19. This does not stop some writers from including program notes in their work.

20. Which brings us back to Richard Wagner and his opera.

21. A crux is one in a series of crises.

22. Program notes are for persons who think they are lost.

* This footnote is for Square 1, who suggests I have perhaps run the Run, Hillary meme into the abbatoir.
**This footnote is for everyone else.


Lori Witzel said...

Two lil' six-petaled flowers, twinkle-twinkling.

The Etymologist says:
"Asterisk: 1382, from L.L. asteriscus, from Gk. asterikos "little star," dim. of aster "star" (see star). ..."

The Wikipedes say:
"...The asterisk derives from the need of the printers of family trees in feudal times for a symbol to indicate date of birth. The original shape was six-armed, each arm like a teardrop shooting from the center. For this reason, in some computer circles it is called a splat, perhaps due to the "squashed-bug" appearance of the asterisk on many early line printers.

Many cultures have their own unique version of the asterisk. In Japan a character with a similar use looks like an X with dots surrounding it. This mark looks like the Chinese character for rice: 米. The Arabic asterisk is six-pointed. In some fonts the asterisk is five-pointed and the Arabic star is eight-pointed. ..."

But best of all...thanks to my wandering mind and your post, I've discovered a rare typographic glyph called the irony mark. Yep, truly.

Unknown said...

I agree with 4 100%, have no experience with 6, but have a fairly vivid imagination, and I'm always up for hearing "Run, Hillary! Run!" simply because in my child-like delight, I'm very easily amused. As to your other readers, they may not be so easily amused as I am. I have a question though, are program notes something that is included by the author, or is it perhaps a reader's or a critic's annotations, or perhaps both? My research and argumentative writing class is all about annotations, a method of note taking that for some reason I absolutely find despicable. It just seems wrong to crowd up someone else's work with my thoughts and reactions.

x said...

To enrich your understanding of this comment you can read the following program note which should guide you through the finer points of the comment that you might otherwise miss. This comment will put an emphasis on the word Xerox with a reference to the deadly use of this word in a recent presidential debate. This emphasis may make you irritable. xeroxxeroxxeroxxeroxxeroxxeroxxerox
Thank you for your interest in this program.

Unknown said...

Program notes are useful for blind and deaf people.

Leitmotifs are useful as a form of foreshadowing, but as with all foreshadowing, the listener doesn't "get" it until after the piece is done, and has to listen again to appreciate the composer's cleverness. For example, the canny-eared listener would know by the end of Act One that the Beggar Woman is actually Sweeney Todd's wife, based on the musical motifs. But a well-placed motif isn't that obvious, so the audience still gets to be surprised, and yet can trace the "rightness" of the surprise musically if they really want to, which they probably don't.

On a cosmic vibrational level, though, they're not surprised, although consciously they feel surprised.