Sergei Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf is famous orchestral work for children, where a narrator reads over an orchestration of the story. It begins with an introduction of the characters and the musical motif and instrumentation associated with each. Here is a version narrated by Lina Prokofiev.
Though the introduction (from 0:00-0:25) may have been written with the mission of introducing children to orchestral music in mind, it accomplishes more than that.
- It tells listeners how many characters to expect and what emotional associations come with each—excitement (the bird), playfulness (the cat), sternness (the grandfather), and so forth.
- The previews of the character motifs allows listeners to anticipate the scope and tone of what follows. They’ll know to anticipate danger (the wolf), and conflict (gunfire).
All of this sets a young listener’s imagination in motion before the action has started, and by establishing these limits, the introduction frees her to enjoy the story.
Thank you for reading.