Have you ever read a book you couldn't put down? Maybe it had a gripping chase scene or hilarious characters. And even though your mom called you for supper - pizza - you couldn't stop reading?
Music can tell wonderful stories, too. Composers sometimes think of a character or story, and instead of using words, they use music to depict emotions, scenes, or plots. This kind of music is called "program" music. You can tell it's program music because the composer often gives it a descriptive title, or provides notes explaining the musical "story."
And like a good book you keep thinking about long after you've read it, a great piece of music keeps you humming and tapping long after it's over.
Here's a brief list of program music you might enjoy. Check your local library.
Music of the Spheres, Op. 13, No. 5, by Ern Dohnnyi. Ever wish you could fly in a hot-air balloon? Hungarian composer Dohnnyi wrote this piano piece after one of his friends, a balloonist, took him for a ride.
The Carnival of the Animals, by Camille Saint-Sans. Visit the zoo without leaving home. Listen for the roaring lions, the elephant, kangaroos, and the swan.
The Mother Goose Suite, by Maurice Ravel. This imaginative music for orchestra includes "The Conversations of Beauty and the Beast," and "The Fairy Garden," in which Sleeping Beauty is awakened by the prince.
Children's Corner, by Claude Debussy. The French composer wrote this group of piano pieces for his little daughter. The first, "Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum," is about a child struggling to practice the piano. Then there's "Jimbo's Lullaby," Jimbo being a toy elephant. "The Snow Is Dancing" could be any winter day. And "Golliwogg's Cake Walk," bouncy and fun, recalls the old-fashioned musical game in which the winner takes home a cake.
Symphony No. 6, in F major, the "Pastoral," by Beethoven. Settle in for this longer piece (more than 20 minutes) in five movements, or sections. Beethoven loved taking walks in the country. Hear murmuring brooks, bird calls, and a sudden rain storm that sweeps over the land.