IS A SYMPHONIC POEM JUST LIKE A SYMPHONY?
You may have heard of a symphony, but it is quite different from a symphonic poem, or a tone poem.
Symphonies and symphonic poems are similar in that they are both works of orchestral music. However, symphonies have multiple movements while symphonic poems are usually in a single continuous movement.
Symphonies and tone poems are also different in that a symphony’s focus is on following the traditional pattern of a form (e.g. sonata form). On the other hand, the emphasis of symphonic poems is illustrating the contents of a poem, images, scenes, ideas, or moods.
Below is an excerpt from Danse Macabre, which tells the French superstition of Death appearing each Halloween night to play the fiddle while the dead dance for him. Notice how Saint-Saëns illustrates dancing with a 3/4 time signature, and open intervals in the violin that sound like fiddle music. If you listen to the link below under "Suggested Listening," you will also hear xylophone that is meant to mimic the sound of bones.