There are two types of people at museums: those who look at the art quizzically and those who read every single plaque and then look at the art.
I am the second.
I want to know what inspired creators to make the art. It adds a dimension that makes me appreciate it even more.
I think that’s why I was drawn to scoring music for media. I love music on its own, but creating it to match another piece of media adds a layer of meaning. It’s like there’s a little blurb next to my music that says, “This is how this came to be.”
Of course, you don’t have to have a visual as an inspiration for your music. You could just have a story about what inspired it.
What is a program note?
This is something we learned about in my film scoring classes at Berklee. A program note is a written story about a piece of music. Think of how we know Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is supposed to be about each of the seasons, or how we all know that Taylor Swift’s We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together is about Harry Styles. We’ve been told written stories about these pieces of music, and those stories are part of how we experience the music.
For an assignment, we had to write a program note by answering the following questions:
- Where are we? Can you describe what this place looks like?
- When is it? Present day, yesterday, 60 years from now?
- What’s the atmosphere like? Are we cold, squinting in bright sun, surrounded by honking buses?
- Who is in the picture? Give me protagonists (is it you?), other people, animals, creatures, etc.
- What is happening? Tell me about the action.
- What is the emotional dimension? “In New York today in the rain I am walking down the street, and I am…” sad? Happy Busy?
Then, we had to tie them together to paint the picture about the song.
The Song: “Farmer’s Market Girl”
First, these were the answers to my questions:
- Where: the farmer’s market
- When: Sunday morning
- Atmosphere: hot
- Who: a young woman with a reusable shopping bag
- Action: buying vegetables
- Emotional dimension: feeling better than everyone else
And this was my program note:
I love going to the farmer’s market on Sunday mornings in the summer. I walk around in my flower print maxi skirt and smell handmade freesia candles, eat samples of small-batch baked goods, and touch all the jewelry. The sun is usually beating down so my forehead gets sweaty and the back of my neck gets hot. My feet always get dirty on the park grounds. And when I put fresh, locally grown raspberries in my canvas tote, I am completely convinced that I am a better person than everyone I know.
Then, finally, I wrote this song about that note:
Feel free to use that piano clip for anything you wish! I’d love it if you tell me what you used it for in the comments.