A symphonic poem, or tone poem, is a single movement piece written for large orchestral forces, conceived to evoke the contents of a non musical source (for example a painting, or a text). The genre reconciles drama and music without actually employing sung or spoken text. Symphonic poems come from the perceived stagnation of the traditional symphony form: after the immense success of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, many composers turned to shorter forms, like the concert overture. This allowed them to continue compose in a symphonic language while still avoiding to be perceived as 'under the shadow' of Beethoven's work. The genre also lent itself to extra-musical narration.
Franz Liszt took this a step further and came up with a new form that allowed him to write pieces as complex as a Symphony's first movement, yet displaying a stronger structural cohesion and reflecting an extra musical program. He made use of the cyclic writing and thematic development methods, found in some of Beethoven's work. This form was quickly adopted by composer, and remained popular until the 20th century, when the rejection of Romantic ideals caused a steep decline in its popularity.