Sleeping in the theatre, a British satirical illustration. Photo © iStock

Sacred Cow

Phillip Sametzcalls for more welcoming program notes

I was talking the other day to an old friend who loves music and our conversation turned to program notes, the written guides to music you read when you attend a classical music performance. On this subject my friend was blunt: “It’s not OK to read about sonata form as if everyone knows what that is, or about how a passage ‘modulates from D Minor to F Major,’ as if that phrase is widely understood.”

He has a point, and a rather important one. If there was ever a time to question the sacredness of...