Dr. J. Michael
Allsen has been writing program notes for
orchestral, choral, chamber and festival programs for
over 35 years—as of June 2019, he has written Notes on
over 1900 individual pieces by over 600 composers.Allsen is
Emeritus Professor of Music at the University of
Wisconsin—Whitewater, where he taught courses in Music
History, World Music, and Interdisciplinary Arts prior
to is retirement in 2018. He holds a Ph.D in Musicology
(1992) from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.Allsen’s
scholarly writing has been published in Plainsong and
Medieval Music, the Journal of the
American Musicological Society, the Journal of
Musicology, and elsewhere, and he has contributed
to reference works that include The New Grove
Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Die Musik in
Geschichte und Gegenwart, and others.A professional
trombonist, Allsen has been associated with the Madison
Symphony Orchestra—one of America's leading regional
orchestras—since 1983, and was the orchestra's bass
trombonist from 1990-2018.He has been the Madison Symphony’s program
annotator since 1984, over the last 25 years he has been
commissioned to write concert program notes and liner
notes for several other orchestras, festivals, ensembles
and artists around the United States.References are
available on request. You can view
samples of his program notes here.
commissioned program notes (2019):
standard charge is $200 per full concert program/liner note,
payable by check on delivery.The cost for providing notes for individual works within
a larger concert program is negotiable.I will typically
discount notes substantially if I do an entire season’s worth of
notes for an ensemble.
typically deliver program notes as a Microsoft Word file, in an
Program Pages: I will also include a separate “program
page” at the end of a set of program notes, listing titles and
movements, with composer names and work/movement titles
regularized with the usage in the program notes.
Translations: Where appropriate, I will include texts and
side-by-side idiomatic English translations for choral and vocal
works at no additional charge.Programs that involve a great deal of translation may
incur an additional charge, to be negotiated, but this is seldom
an issue with standard choral, operatic, and sacred repertoire.
commissioning ensemble may use the notes as they see fit during
the season of the program (in press releases, on websites, etc.).Notes that appear
online must appear with the statement “NOTE: These
program notes are published here for [name of ensemble], its
patrons, and other interested readers. Any other use is
forbidden without specific permission from the author (email@example.com).”Notes must be removed from
the organization’s website following the season for which they
were written. I reserve all other rights, including
reprinting in subsequent seasons.
Length:My notes for a typical
orchestra concert (e.g., an overture, a concerto, and a
symphony) or choral program will usually run 1800-2400 words
(not including texts and translations), but I will edit notes to
fit the commissioning ensemble's needs.The ensemble's
expectations regarding length and other formatting issues should
be clear at the outset.
have developed a fairly standard format for notes over the
years: A brief “vital statistics” paragraph listing details of
composition and premiere, followed by a more substantial note on
the work's history and music.I will modify this format if an ensemble needs it.
Customization: Whenever possible, I see a set of notes
as a single essay, rather than a set of distinct parts, drawing
comparisons between the works included, and if appropriate,
discussing the works' coherence to a single theme or concept.The commissioning
ensemble should feel free to suggest concepts or connections as
I am not engaged with other other commitments I can
usually produce notes on relatively standard repertoire
within a week or so.
I look forward to hearing from you, and, I
hope, working with your group.