absolute music, term used for music dependent on its structure alone for comprehension. It is the antithesis of program music. It is not associated with extramusical ideas or with a pictorial or narrative scheme of emotions, nor does it attempt to reproduce sounds in nature. Hence it is always instrumental, although not all instrumental music is absolute. Bach's Art of Fugue is an example of absolute music.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.