Non-musicians are familiar with more classical music than they think. I often reference pieces of music to friends who aren’t musicians and get a blank stare- but upon humming just a few bars, most say “oh yeah!” and can join along humming the tune. Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, Pachelbel’s Canon in D, Ponchielli’s Dance of the Hours, and La Donna e Mobile from Verdi’s Rigoletto are just a few that most people immediately recognize but can’t easily identify. For example, you might know The Barber of Seville from Bugs Bunny cartoons, Canon in D from wedding ceremonies, and you may refer to Dance of the Hours as “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh”! Movies, TV shows, commericals, and popular music are always sampling from the wealth of public domain music out there. Below, are 3 examples we think you’ll recognize.
1. In the Hall of the Mountain King - written by Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg for Peer Gynt (1876). This is one of the most frequently used in popular culture! There are jazz, rock, heavy metal, and electronic versions of this composition and it’s been used in numerous movie and television sequences and trailers. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ version below is in the Regatta sequence from “The Social Network”.
2. Barber of Seville This excerpt is from Gioachino Rossini‘s 1816 opera The Barber of Seville. Many know it from Bugs Bunny!
3. Dance of the Hours This is from Amilcare Ponchielli‘s La Gioconda (1876). In 1963, the tune was turned into a novelty hit, “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh”, by Allan Sherman. It was also famously used in the ballet-dancing ostriches and hippos scene from Disney’s Fantasia (1940)!
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