Posted by: suekenney | January 28, 2012

Musical Reminders

Depiction of Queen Scheherazade telling her st...

Image via Wikipedia Scheherazade and her sultan

We use music in so much of our modern culture – TV shows, cartoons, movies, ads, stores, elevators, youtube, videos – that sooner or later you find a piece of music that will always remind you of one particular thing.

 For instance:  listening to my favorite classical radio station this morning, I heard them play Scheherazade by Rimsky-Korsakov.  Every time I hear that music, I am brought back to my childhood.  Those were the days of vinyl records – before iPods, before CDs, before cassette tapes , even before stereo 8-tracks!  (Have I sufficiently dated myself now?)  Our family owned some story records, which we kids would play from time to time.  One of them was the story of Aladdin; and the music from Scheherazade was the musical background.  I can even, after all these years, remember one of Aladdin’s songs, sung to one of the bits from Scheherazade:

Oh, I rub my lamp,  Rub my magic lamp;

Come, my genie, come,  To my call appear…

And the genie’s sung response:

I appear for you;  I am here for you;

What you want me to,  I will do…

Well, anyway, that connection was actually quite fitting, since “Aladdin” is a Middle Eastern folktale, though perhaps not in the original Arabic version of The Book of One Thousand and One Nights.  (It was added to the collection by a French translator, Antoine Galland.)

But here’s another one, and perhaps not so close a connection.  What person of my generation can listen to the William Tell Overture by Rossini and NOT think of the Lone Ranger?  Seriously?  A musical tribute to a Swiss folk hero of the early 14th century, used to highlight the adventures of a late 19th century American vigilante?  Just a bit of a stretch.  But there it is…for all time William Tell will signify the Lone Ranger…the moving finger has moved on.

These two, for me, are the most prominent of musical “reminders.”  There certainly are plenty of others – such as Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 in F Major, the Pastorale, which will always bring to mind Greek gods and flying horses and centaurs (from Disney’s Fantasia).  Keeping in the animated movie arena, in Ice Age, some of Sid the Sloth’s sillier antics are underscored by the music from a segment of Dimitri Kabalevsky’s The Comedians, op. 26 – very apropos indeed!

But I’ll end with just one more – the Jazz Suite No. 2:  VI, Waltz 2, by Shostakovich.  It’s a very pretty little piece of music, light and enjoyable.  But it will always remind me of an episode of A&E’s regrettably short-lived series, A Nero Wolfe Mystery.  The episode was “Champagne for One,” and Shostakovich’s music was used, appropriately enough, for the dance scenes.

With the exception of Beethoven’s Pastorale, I did not recognize these pieces of music when I first heard them in these other venues;  I learned years later where that music actually came from, as my knowledge of classical music slowly expanded.  Perhaps my appreciation of some of these pieces has been indelibly tainted – I don’t think I can ever listen to the William Tell Overture and actually think of William Tell – but others have been enhanced by their non-musical associations.  I don’t think you could find a more appropriate piece of music for Sid the Sloth schlepping about than The Comedians.

What about you?  What musical associations do you have?  Have they ruined those particular pieces for you, or enhanced them?

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Responses

  1. You touch a chord or two here, thanks! I never knew why Bach’s Toccata and Fugue always raised the hair on the back of my neck until I saw Fantasia for the second time in my adult years – it had affected me as a young child and the feeling just stayed. And did you know that the first three notes of Rossini’s William Tell Overture are used as the warning sound of Swiss postal buses as they approach bends where you can’t see what’s coming? (Not the Lone Ranger movement, the beginning of the first movement)

    • Oh yeah – I had forgotten that the Toccata and Fugue was in Fantasia as well. That one didn’t bother me so much, but I really don’t like the Stravinsky: as my sons would say, it creeps me out. And no, I did not know that about Swiss postal buses – amazing what you can learn with a little bit of blogging! Glad I sparked a few memories for you as well.

  2. I, too recall that version of Aladdin’s lamp, and would love to find it again. My clearest recollection is the wicked uncle singing “Down, down, down, in a deep dark cavern. Down he’ll go and then I’ll have him. He does not know the old lamp is magic. Ah ha, Oh ho, it’s tragic.”
    -Bill G.

  3. Finally after all these years someone else remembers down, down, down! I would also like to find it again. It opened up a fantastic world of music to me and I haven’t been able to find the source. I knew it wasn’t my imagination

    • Wasn’t it great? We listened to that record a LOT when I was a kid. I’m going to try again to locate it, or at least something about it, on the Web. Not remembering the record company doesn’t help much – but I’ll keep trying.

      • Loved that record. My cousins and I did a play, acting out the characters using the record as the dialog and music… It was hilarious, we were such little kids. I wish I could find it and listen to the whole thing again !
        “Scoundrel! Rogue! What have you done with my daughter??”
        I was the only little kid in my class who knew the story of Scheherazade and how beautiful that music was!

    • We wore that record out as a kid. I was driving the other day and those lyrics popped into my head when Scheherazade came on the radio. Would love to have that recording

  4. Amazing that so many people had the same experience with the story of Aladdin set to Scheherazade. Such was my introduction to classical music back in 1971 or so, when I was eight years old. But I don’t remember the sung parts on my recording, just wonderful narration of the story by a lone male voice actor. I would pay a goodly sum to have that recording again, though my memory of the album’s cover is a little vague and perhaps incorrect: a beautifully illustrated, anthropomorphized mouse wearing an elegant hat or other attire, so my recording may have had other tales set to music, as well. That, or I’m merely misremembering the cover. I have seen various similar recordings for sale (a la https://www.etsy.com/listing/120904997/vintage-aladdin-and-his-magic-lamp-78rpm) but never that of my childhood memory.


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