By Eric Anderson
Certain pieces of music are so ingrained in our popular culture that they show up everywhere, from Oscar-winning movies to deodorant commercials, but have you ever wondered where they come from? Well, now’s your chance to find out. Here is a list of some of the most pervasive music in popular media. Everything on this list can be found in CRRL’s vast CD collection, so if you’d like to know what’s so great about all these pieces, they’re available for checkout!
Masters of Classical Music V. 3: Ludwig Van Beethoven, opens a new window
Da-Da-Da-Dum! The first theme of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony is perhaps one of the most recognizable melodies in Western music. It has been used in numerous movies, TV shows, and commercials, including: The Parent Trap, opens a new window (1961), Saturday Night Fever, opens a new window (1977), The Breakfast Club, opens a new window (1985), and various Simpsons episodes.
Swan Lake - The Sleeping Beauty - The Nutcracker: Ballet Suites, opens a new window
If you’re a Disney fan, you might know the song “Once Upon a Dream” from Sleeping Beauty, opens a new window (1959), but did you know that the song’s melody is based on a theme from a Tchaikovsky ballet? You’ll never guess what that ballet was called…The Sleeping Beauty!
Music from Swan Lake, another of Tchaikovsky’s ballets, has been lending melodramatic flair to movies and TV for almost 100 years. In 1931, Universal Pictures used the eerie “Swan Theme” in the opening credits to Dracula, opens a new window and subsequently to The Mummy, opens a new window (1932). Since then, it has been featured in numerous productions, including Funny Girl, opens a new window (1968), The Muppet Show, opens a new window (Episode 213, "Swine Lake," featuring Rudolf Nureyev - 1978), Billy Elliot, opens a new window (2000) and was even the subject of the dark psychological thriller, Black Swan, opens a new window (2010).
Essential Wagner, opens a new window
Richard Wagner’s rousing "Ride of the Valkyries" from his opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen has been used time and again to add a dramatic flair to TV shows and movies. Perhaps the most notable instances are in the Apocalypse Now, opens a new window ( 1979) and a Bugs Bunny short called "What's Opera, Doc?", opens a new window (1957).
Pavarotti: The 50 Greatest Tracks, opens a new window
"Vesti la Giubba," from Ruggero Leoncavallo’s opera, Pagliacci, has been used time and again in popular media, including in The Untouchables, opens a new window (1987), Seinfeld ("The Opera," S4, E9 - 1992), and a fan favorite episode of SpongeBob SquarePants featuring “The Two Faces of Squidward” (S5, E19 - 2007).
The Four Seasons, opens a new window
Vivaldi’s music seems to exude sophistication, therefore, it’s no wonder that this piece has been featured in multiple luxury car commercials. However, its most recent use in media was in the popular Netflix series Wednesday, opens a new window (2022).
Peer Gynt Suite, opens a new window
"In the Hall of the Mountain King," by Edvard Grieg, is another piece with an instantly recognizable melody. The theme song from the popular 80s cartoon, Inspector Gadget, opens a new window, took inspiration from it, and two other cartoon shows, Garfield and Friends, opens a new window (1988-1994) and Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, opens a new window (1993) feature it in their theme songs.
Symphony no. 9 in D minor, op. 125, opens a new window
Another one of Beethoven’s symphonies that has been used extensively in pop culture is his 9th, featuring the famous “Ode to Joy'' theme. Instances of its use include A Clockwork Orange, opens a new window (1971), Die Hard, opens a new window (1988), and Dead Poets Society, opens a new window (1989).
25 Classical Dance Favorites, opens a new window
Strauss' famous waltz, "The Blue Danube," has been featured in a number of well-known movies, including 2001: A Space Odyssey, opens a new window (1968), True Lies, opens a new window (1994), and Horton Hears a Who, opens a new window (2008).
Click here, opens a new window for a related list of CDS.