It occurred to me the other day that one reason I got so miserable in my previous home was simply that my walk to and from work every day was basically the same, and indeed had been the same since late 2006 (barring a period of around 18 months in 2007-09 when I worked in a different building). Although discovering in 2011 that I could listen to the radio on my MP3 player (which I’d owned for over two years at that point!) made a bit of a difference, before that I’d been listening to the same old music every day, and indeed for a period in 2008 I had a very inferior MP3 player that played the exact same “random” order of tracks every time unless you added or deleted tracks (and Sony had the gall to claim this was “deliberate”!).
Fortunately, two things have helped to break me out of that rut: firstly, since moving house in early 2012 I’ve been getting the Tube to and from work every day, which is often an ordeal but never the same two days running; and secondly, I’ve been listening to new genres of music (or getting further into genres I’d only touched upon before)…
I first tried to get into classical music and opera back in late 2011, when I was already well on my way into the pit of depression, which is probably why it didn’t take. However, I still ended up humming “Largo al factotum” from Rossini’s The Barber of Seville thanks to a Harry Enfield sketch in which Paul Whitehouse sings it surprisingly well (after mangling Madonna’s “Who’s That Girl” — sadly this clip doesn’t seem to be on YouTube any more), and in 2012, thanks to a page at TV Tropes, I found out the names of a great many classic works that I only knew as “that thing from that show” — and here’s a non-exhaustive list (since obviously I don’t want to refer to things that I can’t explain properly):
- The overture from Bizet’s Carmen was used in the opening titles of ITV’s Professional Wrestling series in the 1980s, and more recently was the tune I set on my old Nokia phone for whenever my folks were calling me (because in primitive polytonic form, it was suitably annoying!). Meanwhile, the aria “Habanera” was sung on Sesame Street by a creepy orange…
- “The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba” from Handel’s Solomon, in the form of primitive computer beeps and boops, is the theme tune to the classic video game Tempest, which I had on the Amstrad CPC.
- A little-known one: despite its name, “Entrance of the Gladiators” by Fucík (no, there’s an i-acute in there, wash your minds out!) is the music that shall forever be associated with the circus, especially the clowns. That’s as opposed to Joaquin Phoenix screaming: “Die, die, die! I have everything and you have nothing!“
One tune I particularly like, and occasionally hum obsessively, is the overture from Rossini’s The Thieving Magpie, though not entirely because of its association with the old ultra-violence in Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange!
- The second of Liszt’s Hungarian rhapsodies is better known to us plebs as the music that Tom Cat, Bugs Bunny and every other cartoon character in the history of animation has at some point played on the piano, with or without interference from another character (or Donald Duck seemingly using the N-word!).
- Both major bits of music in 2001: A Space Odyssey, namely Also sprach Zarathustra and The Blue Danube, were composed by (unrelated) men named Strauss; the first is now officially a cliché, but the latter served as the theme music to Technician Ted and (more appropriately) the all-time great space trading game Elite. But let’s not go into the exploding version…
- “Un bel di” from Puccini’s Madame Butterfly is a wonderfully depressing work, and it’s thus fitting that Barney Gumble used it in his film about alcoholism in The Simpsons: “Don’t cry for me, I’m already dead!”
- The “Swan Theme” from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake has a long association with the old silent Dracula movie, but more recently, ahem, it was used in a powerful, moving scene in Beavis and Butt-head where Beavis fed a wounded bird by, er, chewing up worms and regurgitating them into its mouth…
- Bach’s Toccata & Fugue in D-minor is the most famous “creepy pipe organ” tune that’s bound to be being played by someone named Igor, but a more jazzy interpretation of it opens my all-time favourite movie, the 1966 Peter Cushing film Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150AD!
- “Nessun Dorma” from Puccini’s Turandot was brought to the masses by Pavarotti in 1990 as the theme music for the football World Cup, and his is still the definitive version.
- The first few notes from the overture to Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro is that music Gene Wilder plays in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory to open a door, that most definitely isn’t Rachmaninoff!
- Rigoletto’s “La donna è mobile” was sung by two Doctors in science fiction: Jon Pertwee in the Doctor Who serial Inferno (although he mostly hummed it!), and Robert Picardo in an episode of Star Trek: Voyager. It’s also used in a Kenny Everett sketch which opened the third season of his Television Show…
There, I finally told you about the classical music I’d been listening to, as promised many months ago! But it’s not just classical music I’ve been discovering: thanks to that guy at work, I’ve expanded my knowledge of 1980s “New Wave” music, including the Pet Shop Boys and New Order; and thanks to watching Beavis and Butt-head over the past week, I’ve discovered bands like Black Sabbath and Gwar, music I’d previously dismissed as just noise! Of course, that could just be the precursor of a mid-life crisis… will I be getting a motorbike next?
Anyway, here’s two cool (uh huh huh huh) songs from my new favourite bands, “Iron Man” and “Saddam A Go-Go” — see if you can play them air guitar-style!