Programmatic music

Music inspired by a program, i.e., a nonmusical idea, which is usually indicated in the title and sometimes described in explanatory remarks or a preface.  Thus, program music is the opposite of "absolute music".  Although examples of program music are found in nearly all periods form at least the 14th century, it was not until the 19th century that it became a serious rival of absolute music.

Programmatic ideas are frequently found in the works of 17th- and 18th-century composers.  Couperin with his numerous program pieces and Bach with his word painting in arias and chorale preludes have frequently been cited to support the cause of 19th-century programmatic music.  The old masters, however, did not identify themselves with the programmatic thought but used it only as a point of departure.