What Is That Song They Always Use...?
June 3, 2009 11:23 AM   Subscribe

What Is That Song They Always Use...?

You know the one. I can't think of its name. It's the one they always use

When the vikings are killing everyone in slow motion
O Fortuna From Carmina Burana by Carl Orff

When it's a beautiful sunrise on the farm

When everybody runs around on the Benny Hill Show
Yakety Sax

When the other vikings are killing everyone in slow motion
Wagner - Die Walküre: "The Ride of the Valkyries" (Boulez)

When Howard Stern wants to stereotype Italians
Tarantella Napolitana

When a beautiful woman enters the scene and it's the 1980's
Yello - Oh Yeah (1985)

When Howard Stern wants to stereotype Chinese people
?? (I still want to know the name of the song)

So what are the songs I missed? And what are some other songs? You know the ones. They're the ones they always play...
posted by jfrancis to Media & Arts (127 answers total) 366 users marked this as a favorite

When it's a beautiful sunrise on the farm:
Peer Gynt - Morning Mood
posted by milarepa at 11:26 AM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

When it's a beautiful sunrise on the farm

Edvard Grieg - Peer Gynt - Morning Mood

Beaten to the punch :(
posted by ludwig_van at 11:28 AM on June 3, 2009

When the underdog wins the championship in slow motion
Theme from Chariots of Fire

When its a beautiful sunrise on the farm is Morning Mood from Peer Gynt

I think the chinese thing is a mystery see here
posted by jeb at 11:29 AM on June 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

When there's crazy shit going on (e.g. cleaning the house from the party before the parents get home, mouse chasing a cat through a tabasco factory): Sabre Dance or Flight of the Bumblebee
posted by jeb at 11:32 AM on June 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

Sunrise - opening of William Tell Overture

More from TV Tropes (warning: huge time sink) ... Bad to the Bone and other cliches
posted by kurumi at 11:35 AM on June 3, 2009


people in love:
Overture from Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet

Dies Irae

Mendelssohn's Spring Song

first theme from Beethoven's 5th Symphony

minuet from Boccherini's String Quintet


emotional hard times:
REM - Everybody Hurts

getting ready to rock:
Queen - We Will Rock You

bad-boy swagger:
George Thorogood - Bad to the Bone

school being out:
Alice Cooper - School's Out
posted by Jaltcoh at 11:39 AM on June 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

For the circus: Entry of the Gladiators.
posted by steveminutillo at 11:40 AM on June 3, 2009

Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor is used whenever they walk into a possibly haunted old house or hotel.

Also Sprach Zarathustra is always used for the unveiling of the Mighty Object, but those may all be over 2001 references.

the Habanera from Carmen is sometimes used as generic Spanish-y or southern European. So is the Toreador song. But its also in a lot of commercials. Like I think Beyonce sings it in a Pepsi commercial with diff lyrics, and there's an old pasta sauce commercial with it.
posted by jeb at 11:42 AM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Another beautiful sunrise on the farm song: Claude Debussy - Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun.
posted by ktrey at 11:54 AM on June 3, 2009

w/r/t Stern: The Oriental Riff?
posted by Miko at 11:56 AM on June 3, 2009

On commercials aimed at affluent Gen-Xers?
posted by Miko at 11:57 AM on June 3, 2009

Team entering arena: Gary Glitter, Rock and Roll Part II
posted by carmicha at 12:02 PM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

When they want high energy music in a movie trailer (usually a comedy): the "HEY! HEY! HEY!" then horns part of the Commitments' cover of Roy Head's "Treat her Right." Took me forever to find that out.
posted by kimota at 12:10 PM on June 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

When you make a movie trailer and you need a really epic song but the soundtrack hasn't been finished yet:

Lux Aeterna / Requiem for a Tower

That counts, right? I can't believe it hadn't been mentioned yet.
posted by joshrholloway at 12:29 PM on June 3, 2009 [7 favorites]

The Verve - Bittersweet Symphony

Hard to nail it down though...I've heard it used for all kinds of scenes.
posted by JaredSeth at 12:44 PM on June 3, 2009

Craig Armstrong has a ton of these (and you've never heard of him). Used when someone wants uplifting/dramatic choral music. In particular Escape and Business from the Plunkett & Macleane score.
posted by smackfu at 12:53 PM on June 3, 2009

When someone is pleasantly surprised: Hallelujah Chorus from "The Messiah", by Handel.

(It's hard to believe nobody has mentioned this one yet.)
posted by Johnny Assay at 12:58 PM on June 3, 2009

Another oft-used Spring tune is Vivaldi's The Four Seasons - Spring
posted by SpiffyRob at 1:06 PM on June 3, 2009

When you make a movie trailer and you really need to convey danger getting closer-closer-CLOSER but the soundtrack hasn't been finished yet:

James Horner's music from the end of Aliens with Bishop piloting away from the planet just before the reactor blows up.
posted by Joe Beese at 1:07 PM on June 3, 2009


feeling good: James Brown, "I Feel Good"
posted by Joe Beese at 1:08 PM on June 3, 2009

Wistful nostalgia, ideally with horses and carts: Dvorak, "From The New World", largo.

By every British producer, it seems, for the "big emotion" moment: Hoppípolla, Sigur Rós.
posted by holgate at 1:17 PM on June 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

Duel / Shootout / Western Movie: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly Theme

The Bagpipe Song That Isn't Amazing Grace - Scotland the Brave
posted by ALongDecember at 1:27 PM on June 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

What's the bagpipe battle song?
posted by auntbunny at 1:28 PM on June 3, 2009

The Song That Has The Sax Solo - Baker Street
posted by ALongDecember at 1:29 PM on June 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

heh. thanks AlongDecember... any more? Like the more frantic battle version?
posted by auntbunny at 1:30 PM on June 3, 2009

The standard "classy yet intimate" music for commercials is the first movement of Bach's Cello Suite No. 1.
posted by dfan at 1:30 PM on June 3, 2009 [4 favorites]

During montages that include fighting, training, and/or random displays of badassery: Survivor's Eye of the Tiger (from Rocky III)
posted by AnimalKing at 1:34 PM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Guy in an apartment plays cheesy smooth jazz - Kenny G - Song Bird
posted by ALongDecember at 1:37 PM on June 3, 2009

The Standard Snippets page from tvtropes.org is a huge list of songs they always use when.
posted by nooneyouknow at 1:42 PM on June 3, 2009 [9 favorites]

For the last decade, 54% of all movie/tv scenes meant to convey deep and profound emotion have relied on Jeff Buckley's cover of Hallelujah.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:43 PM on June 3, 2009 [6 favorites]

Lame formula comedies get Smash Mouth's "All Star"
posted by porn in the woods at 1:44 PM on June 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

Sorry, I really love this topic. This should be on the Ask Question page.

Used a lot, mainly in Beef, It's What's For Dinner ads - Aaron Copland, Rodeo

Quiet Triumph or Honor, or used over a montage of America - Fanfare for the Common Man

Either You're the Harlem Globetrotters or You're Playing Basketball Badly So It's Ironic - Sweet Georgia Brown, usually whistled

The Really Sweet Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Israel Kamakawiwo'Ole (Iz)
posted by ALongDecember at 1:48 PM on June 3, 2009 [6 favorites]

And here's a website about the history of the Asian Riff: The Musical Cliché Figure Signifying The Far East: Whence, Wherefore, Whither?
posted by nooneyouknow at 1:51 PM on June 3, 2009

Another stereotypical Italian song - Funiculi Funicula
posted by candyland at 1:59 PM on June 3, 2009

I have this theory that any movie can increase its box office take by 10%, simply by including House of Pain's "Jump Around" during any friendly bonding scene where one might expect the ambient sound to be noisy. Evolution, I'm looking at you and your three beady little eyes.
posted by adipocere at 2:01 PM on June 3, 2009

When the gears of industry are turning:
Powerhouse by Raymond Scott
posted by vytae at 2:10 PM on June 3, 2009 [11 favorites]

More Sigur Rós for the "reveal" scene in just about any sort of makeover program: Svefn-g-englar

And we have already talked about Cohen's Hallelujah whenever we need some kind of sad contemplation.
posted by rongorongo at 2:35 PM on June 3, 2009

When the protagonists of the retro romance movie finally get together and there's a montage of slow dancing, looking at the moon, walking on the beach: Santo & Johnny's Sleepwalk.
posted by Miko at 2:46 PM on June 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

Did someone post Bolero already? I've always loved you from afar, askmefi.
posted by chairface at 2:48 PM on June 3, 2009

For underwater scenes we need The Aquarium from (the widely raided) "Carnival of the Animals" - not to be confused with the closely related Harry Potter theme for a magical journey.
posted by rongorongo at 3:06 PM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

...and when somebody spooky is creeping up on you from behind - seen only by the audience - you need "Mysterioso Pizzicato"
posted by rongorongo at 4:10 PM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Slow motion battlefield with everyone dying: Barber's Adagio for Strings op. 11.
posted by losvedir at 5:55 PM on June 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

Heavy thunderstorm - William Tell Overture.
posted by ctmf at 6:04 PM on June 3, 2009

Swelling, sentimental triumph (I just looked this one up myself because it's now on a commercial)--"To the Stars" theme from Dragonheart by Randy Edelman
posted by gladly at 6:13 PM on June 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

When two lovers are running towards each other in a field chanting each other's names they play the overture from Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet (skip ahead to about 7:43)

When someone's going to Italy (or Little Italy) or eating Italian food (or advertising Italian food): Mambo Italiano (the Rosemary Clooney version)

When you're doing a Vietnam war montage: Buffalo Springfield's For What It's Worth

When someone is running (especially in slow motion): the Chariots of Fire theme

When there's a montage of the bright lights of Vegas they play Viva Las Vegas (by Elvis, of course).

When someone goes to Rio (or anywhere glamorous really) they play that one song... you know... it goes "ooooh ahh-ee-ahh oo-ooh" ...sorry, couldn't find that one.
posted by AV at 6:31 PM on June 3, 2009 [4 favorites]

Wedding music that isn't the wedding march - Canon in D

The all purpose Spanish Flea. I associate it with waiting for something and The Dating Game.

AV: Do you mean Mas Que Nada? It was in a Vegas sequence of the original Austin Powers.
posted by ALongDecember at 6:43 PM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Ohh, more:

When someone is frantically creating or plotting something: the overture from the Barber of Seville (skip ahead to 2:10)

When you have zany fat people or actual elephants: Baby Elephant Walk

When you're making a 1950s-style infomercial and/or predicting suburban life in the future from the atomic age: Happy Go Lively by Laurie Johnson

When you're having a swingin' good time: Sing Sing Sing by Benny Goodman Orchestra

When you're panning over a spaceship or a sunrise (or anything monumental): Also Sprach Zarathustra (as popularized by 2001: A Space Odyssey)
posted by AV at 7:12 PM on June 3, 2009

ALongDecember: OMG YES. That has been driving me CRAZY. Thank you!
posted by AV at 7:13 PM on June 3, 2009

Blue Danube Waltz to connote gracefulness. I just saw it on Futurama with Bender floating in space; and Homer Simpson moves to this when he's an astronaut. So the song maybe also connotes animated characters in space?
posted by pised at 9:51 PM on June 3, 2009

A space odyssey, more likely.
posted by smackfu at 10:06 PM on June 3, 2009

Ironic intermission: Theme From a Summer Place (also in a current Subways ad)

French seduction: Un homme et une femme

Please enjoy your ride in our elevator: The Girl from Ipanema
posted by hydrophonic at 10:51 PM on June 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

Romanticized medieval Britain: Greensleeves
Musical punctuation, "secret" knock: Shave and a Haircut
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 11:32 PM on June 3, 2009

A jolly adventure in the English countryside with Edward White's Puffin Billy.

Leroy Anderson's "The Typewriter" for showing typists - or the drudgery of office work.

Coronation Scot - for steam trains and British nostalgia.

The Happy Wanderer for hikers - particularly if blond and German.
posted by rongorongo at 3:26 AM on June 4, 2009

What's the bagpipe battle song?

In Braveheart it is "The Battle for Stirling" - played on the Uilleann pipes. When you have a loan piper somewhere they will be playing Amazing Grace probably.
posted by rongorongo at 3:40 AM on June 4, 2009

If it was still 2007...

When something really dramatic happened at the end of that popular tv show episode?

Hide and Seek by Imogen Heap.
posted by jeffmik at 10:06 AM on June 4, 2009

Actually, i always thought that Morning On A Farm was the middle part of the William Tell Overture -- the part right before the Lone Ranger bit.
posted by Madamina at 10:12 AM on June 4, 2009

Adding an ironic tint to a montage of tragic events: What A Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong.

I first noticed it in Good Morning, Vietnam, but have seen it used in many other situations for the same effect.
posted by bingo at 10:14 AM on June 4, 2009

It's funny how little or few times a song needs to be used to take hold as a cliche.

For example: Jeffmik, "Hide and Seek" by Imogen Heap is only a cliche because of the SNL Digital Short "Dear Sister" (aka "The Shooting") used it to parody it's original use in an episode of the TV show The O.C. -- so being used only twice makes it a cliche now. ;)
posted by jca at 10:17 AM on June 4, 2009

Character exhibits change: Peter Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill"
posted by boost ventilator at 10:21 AM on June 4, 2009 [4 favorites]

Establishing shot of ships at quaside, or background to a Popeye cartoon: Sailor's Hornpipe
posted by Miko at 10:26 AM on June 4, 2009

jca - I know it was a short lived cliche but it appeared on 3 tv show within a few weeks of each other (CSI, Smith and The OC) and commercials for Heroes (I had to check wikipedia to make sure I was remembering that). The SNL clip summed them all up pretty perfectly :)
posted by jeffmik at 10:37 AM on June 4, 2009

The "Oh hay! It's the 20s and we're all flappers!" Song is: In the Mood. (Also useful if you're going to war and need to show excited troops shipping out!)
posted by greekphilosophy at 10:49 AM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Pretty much everything in the Charlie's Angels soundtrack? Sexy powerful female boss? (Heart's Baracuda). Pop Japanese culture? (Turning Japanese). Ironic rap? (Baby Got Back) Ironic love song? (Brandy).

And of course it introduced a new song cliche: Independent Women.
posted by wfitzgerald at 11:52 AM on June 4, 2009

Does anyone know what the quintessential "Guy from the civil war writing a letter home to be read outloud to his dearest Martha" song is? It's usually some slow guitar plucking but I know there must be a song in the Appalachian style that starts out that way.
posted by mathowie at 1:24 PM on June 4, 2009

Well, Copland's Appalachian Spring is a pretty strong contender for a "This is America! We have green rolling hills where people farm stuff!" song.

But I think Ken Burns pretty much ensured that Ashokan Farewell is the "This is America where we had a war of brother against brother and it made us emo" song.

Also, to propose marriage when all shadowy and stuff, you must cue Palladio Allegretto by Karl Jenkins.
posted by greekphilosophy at 1:45 PM on June 4, 2009 [4 favorites]

Damn it, greekphilosophy! I JUST remembered "Ashokan Farewell" and was coming here to post it for Matt.
posted by Night_owl at 1:51 PM on June 4, 2009

(It's really pretty when played on the viola, by the way.)
posted by Night_owl at 1:52 PM on June 4, 2009

As someone obsessed with this concept, to the point that I created the aforementioned TV Tropes Standard Snippet page, I can't add anything here because everything I had is over there -- but I will be adding things there that you guys have brought up here. Thanks!
posted by darksasami at 2:28 PM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: These are all awesome. So many of them I knew, and yet forgot about, and wouldn't even have known how to ask about - like the circus one, 'Entry of the Gladiators.' just to name one of many

posted by jfrancis at 2:47 PM on June 4, 2009

Oh, but I will bring this over here: does anyone know what the music they use is when a fifties housewife is shopping, dusting, or cooking in a bright, bustling, and efficient way, generally in a smart pinched-waist dress and heels? It's at 14:40 in this video.
posted by darksasami at 2:50 PM on June 4, 2009

Response by poster: sleepwalk: they unveiled the miata to that song :D
posted by jfrancis at 2:58 PM on June 4, 2009

Response by poster: How to cut to the good part:

3. Cut the chase and link to the interesting part

Linking to a video where the real action starts at 3 minutes 22 seconds, wondered if you could make it start at 03:22? You are in luck. All you have to do is add #t=03m22s (#t=XXmYYs for XX mins and YY seconds) to the end of the URL.

posted by jfrancis at 3:04 PM on June 4, 2009 [14 favorites]

Response by poster: I just heard some really great exotica 'elevator music' - probably saw on boingboing

Can't think of it now

Wasn't Percy Faith / A Summer Place

more loungey/exotic if I recall...
posted by jfrancis at 3:08 PM on June 4, 2009

Response by poster: For Star Trek fans, there is Ruth's theme.
posted by jfrancis at 3:10 PM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Found it..

Walter Wanderley - Summer Samba

your call is important to us....
posted by jfrancis at 3:16 PM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Holy crap, that song "Ashokan Farewell" is totally what I think of when I think of Ken Burns Civil War type documentaries.
posted by mathowie at 3:42 PM on June 4, 2009

Mentioned earlier darksasami was Happy Go Lively, the 50s look-how-modern-this-thing-is-song.
posted by ALongDecember at 3:56 PM on June 4, 2009 [4 favorites]

Ha, I saw all the ones around it but missed the one I wanted. Thanks for pointing it out.
posted by darksasami at 6:04 PM on June 4, 2009

When the successful black lawyer/doctor/businessman goes back home to take care of his dying aunt/mother/brother/ex, this is the music you hear when he gets off the plane and drives through the cotton fields.

There's another bottleneck slide trope, meant to indicate a sleepy, scary Southern town where fat old bigots spit from porches and dogs lie in the shade, but it's too hard to identify a single tune - a lot of slow bottleneck slide, like this, will do.
posted by Miko at 6:40 PM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

What a great question.

Love sageleaf's link to list of 100 of these.

Another "morning" one is #42 on their list, Grieg's Morning.

One of my all time favorites for creepy, eerie, mysterious is #72, Aquarium from Saint-Saens' Carnival of the Animals.

One that I didn't see on the list is O Mio Babbino Caro. It's used to express romance and also the beauty and luxuriously slow pace of life in the Italian countryside.
posted by marsha56 at 7:27 PM on June 4, 2009

That song in cartoons whenever we're seeing a belly dancer/snake charmer or in a desert/Egypt/Arabia sometimes goes by The Hoochy Coochy Dance but is really called The Streets of Cairo or The Poor Little Country Maid.

It's allegedly an American invention, born of necessity at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago when the band showman Sol Bloom hired to accompany his imported troupe of North African bellydancers didn't have a tune suitably exotic enough. Bloom composed it on the spot on piano and the tune has been associated with belly dancing ever since.
posted by unsupervised at 8:52 PM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Gradually supplanting "Bad To The Bone" as the generic anthem of badass-edness, I believe, is "Welcome To The Jungle" by Guns N' Roses.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:30 PM on June 4, 2009

Response by poster: Wow :D also Grieg...

In the Hall of the Mountain King
posted by jfrancis at 10:05 PM on June 4, 2009

Response by poster: Yes, great list

posted by jfrancis at 10:11 PM on June 4, 2009

Oh, but I will bring this over here: does anyone know what the music they use is when a fifties housewife is shopping, dusting, or cooking in a bright, bustling, and efficient way, generally in a smart pinched-waist dress and heels?

You mean Happy Go Lively by Laurie Johnson.
posted by rongorongo at 1:56 AM on June 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

Glad to see no one posted 'Song Nr. 2' by Blur yet. It is used in a variety of settings, but mostly to convey:

"we are young, sporty people and adrenaline rushes through our body as we take our skateboard/parachute/football/350hp motorcycle and dive/jump/soar/roar into the fray"
posted by NekulturnY at 2:56 AM on June 5, 2009

That techno/trance song they play on the Stern show when JD Harmeyer walks in...

Karma - Everytime You Leave (Age Pee Short mix)

Clip starts at 1:43 in.
posted by mediamelt at 6:30 AM on June 5, 2009

Also, there's a concept that ties in nicely here - for anyone curious about this sort of thing - called "gebrauchsmusik" and it was championed by a number of composers, mostly German. It is, literally, "utility music" or music that is both accessible and written specifically for one purpose. This started out with very simple things like, say, music to play at someone's funeral or music to dance to. But it was essentially ceremonial music (not a new concept, just a more approachable version of an older one).

But eventually it has evolved and has been colonized by the movie industry. In my opinion, most of today's film score composers are in the same lineage as the 20th Century composers who championed gebrauchsmusik. They produce music to evoke one specific feeling. But most importantly, they produce music which is to be used in one or more specific ways.
posted by greekphilosophy at 6:46 AM on June 5, 2009 [2 favorites]

I've heard Debussy's "Clare de Lune" more than once, most notably at the end of "Ocean's 11".
posted by dbarefoot at 8:40 AM on June 5, 2009

"Anthem" from Philip Glass's "Powaqqatsi" gets a lot of use out of its stirring, swelling strings - see the trailer for Philadelphia, or The Truman Show.
posted by Guy Smiley at 10:53 AM on June 5, 2009

Also, "Mars (The Bringer of War)" from Holst's suite "The Planets" gets a lot of use as a Sauron-esque anthem used most appropriately when taking over the world.
posted by greekphilosophy at 11:11 AM on June 5, 2009

When a main character's girlfriend/boyfriend/best friend gets shot, the sound fades and Imogen Heap - Hide and Seek begins to play...
posted by poq at 1:20 PM on June 5, 2009

On preview, I'm extremely slow.
posted by poq at 1:23 PM on June 5, 2009

Forbidden love or climactic sexual encounter: Enigma - Sadness Pt. 1
posted by elphTeq at 2:31 PM on June 5, 2009

What is this CREEPY CIRCUS song?
posted by joelf at 3:38 PM on June 5, 2009

Response by poster: French seduction: Un homme et une femme



I had an office mate that sometimes used to sing that as, 'A man a woman and a duck, woman and a duck, woman and a duck...'
posted by jfrancis at 8:23 PM on June 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

When they need a song for the opening credits, or for panning over a city:

Massive Attack's "Angel"
posted by sacrifix at 9:06 PM on June 5, 2009

Response by poster: ...and when somebody spooky is creeping up on you from behind - seen only by the audience - you need "Mysterioso Pizzicato"
posted by rongorongo


They used that for the Weebles Haunted House commercial
posted by jfrancis at 1:55 AM on June 6, 2009

Money is normally indicated by Pink Floyd's Money or Abba's Money Money Money. "We're in the money" from 42nd Street and "Hey Big Spender" can also be expected.

The riff from MGMT's Time to Pretend seems to be doing heavy duty in the background to "young people and the credit crunch" footage.

Thomas Newman's score from "American Beauty" is still popping up as standard moody music. For example "Any other name" will do for contemplation of dead dogs, lovers, mothers, etc.
posted by rongorongo at 6:25 AM on June 6, 2009

Also, Saint-Saens' "Danse Macabre" (That's a nifty vintage recording of the Philadelphia Orchestra under Leopold Stokowski - who you might remember from Fantasia... it also, apparently, happens to be the first electronic orchestral recording made. Go figure.) gets a lot of play when you have a creepy masked ball where everyone may or may not be vampires and it's lively and fun, but you're slowly beginning to realize that you might be the only living guest invited to this ball...
posted by greekphilosophy at 9:41 AM on June 6, 2009

Side point here -- something I truly loved about The Truman Show:

It largely used original music for all the "scripted" moments of Truman's life. But whenever Truman did something the show's "producers" didn't expect, that's when they'd bust out with "Fanfare for the Common Man" or "Anthem" or some other piece of stock music -- because they didn't have anything else prepared.

It's a nice touch, and it makes the conceit of the film that much more believable.
posted by webmutant at 4:02 PM on June 6, 2009 [3 favorites]

minuet from Boccherini's String Quintet

Also possible: Mozart's "Serenade No. 13" (aka. Eine kleine Nachtmusik). This is often used to represent stuffy, old people garden/cocktail parties very often in films. I think Batman (Keaton/Nicholson), if I remember correctly, used this for the gallery party that the Joker crashed. (a quick search confirms that.)
posted by mkn at 4:35 PM on June 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Whenever people are in an elevator and not talking they always play a cover of this.
posted by flatluigi at 5:05 PM on June 6, 2009

There is a special case for film appearances of places that have a song indelibly associated with them; places where- if you visit- you can actually hear people humming the song in question as they pass by. For example: Penny Lane, The Bonny Banks of Loch Lomond, on the Ferry across the Mersey, Oklahoma, on the train to Chatanooga or onwards to Georgia by midnight, Warwick Avenue tube station, Mull of Kintyre, the 59th St Bridge, Broadway, Bethlehem...
posted by rongorongo at 5:17 PM on June 6, 2009 [3 favorites]

Listening to Fanfare for the Common Man made me think about all the TV/movie songs that are thinly disguised "homages" to these songs, using our associations with the original music to inspire certain feelings or moods.

For instance, The West Wing theme is awesome, but it lifts pretty heavily from Fanfare.
posted by lunasol at 6:48 PM on June 6, 2009

When one or more people sit contemplatively and reflect on recent social interactions of great personal importance, it's time for Gymnopédie No. 1 by Erik Satie.
posted by decagon at 1:33 PM on June 7, 2009

Response by poster: Chopin Piano sonata Funeral March, Op.35, no.2
posted by jfrancis at 4:29 PM on June 7, 2009

Also, strangely, decagon, Satie's Gymnopedie is often used for underwater scenes.
posted by greekphilosophy at 4:36 PM on June 7, 2009

When people post to this thread without reading the previous posts, it's always Imogen Heap or Girl from Ipanema.
posted by britain at 7:29 PM on June 7, 2009 [3 favorites]

posted by archagon at 1:20 AM on June 8, 2009

Recently, the amazing and underrated Charlie Brooker, of Dead Set, Screenwipe and Newswipe fame tweeted all the music he uses on his shows.

Spotify Playlist

The Thing

Lux Aeterna

Ghosts of a Future Lost

The Gonk

Sounds Orchestral - Soul Coaxing

Sounds Orchestral - Superstition

posted by chuckdarwin at 4:10 AM on June 8, 2009

joelf: Creepy Circus Song is from one of Shostakovich's Jazz Suites: Waltz No. 2, Jazz Suite No. 2
posted by andeles at 10:54 AM on June 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

Holy god in the heaven I don't actually believe in: THANK YOU ANDELES! I sat at the computer for about an hour clicking through my music library to find that piece and never managed to figure out what it was! I even dragged my formally trained musician roommate into the hunt to no avail. The closest I got was "Russian. Clearly Russian." But I got sidetracked thinking it might be part of Prokofiev's "Romeo and Juliet" which was, like Communism, a total red herring. Anyway, thank you for scratching that itch.
posted by greekphilosophy at 1:28 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thanks to this thread, the piece of music that I had heard so many times in movie trailers was not "Love Theme From Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story" but "To The Stars" from Dragonheart. Both by Randy Edelman.

You can see why Usenet in 1998 made the mistake.

But if I'm not mistaken, the Love Theme from Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story has been used many times as well.

All this time I thought I had the right piece. I remember I posted the question and referred to (of all things) the Patch Adams trailer. And some usenet poster told me it was the theme from Dragon. It sounded so similar, and there was no way to confirm it at the time. I thought for sure I had my answer.

Looking to contribute what I (thought I) knew to the thread, I looked up the Patch Adams Trailer on youtube and on soundtrack.net trying to find where the pieces matched, only to discover that they didn't. And that the correct song had already been posted here.

A mystery 11 years in the making and corrected thanks to this question.
posted by aclevername at 12:34 AM on June 9, 2009

Wondrous and magical things:

The Ice Dance, from the Edward Scissorhands score by Danny Elfman.
posted by po at 2:21 AM on June 11, 2009

Take Us Out by Jerry Goldsmith

Used in the trailer of every inspirational sports movie since 1993.
posted by dephlogisticated at 6:41 PM on June 15, 2009

I always wanted my dead body to crowd surf to Yackety Sax at my funeral.
posted by premiumpolar at 12:05 AM on June 19, 2009

Maybe a future Song They Always Use but the Donnie Darko Soundtrack (This track in particular) is being used for creepy-haunting-but-not-shocking stuff a lot. NPR, in particular, can't get enough of the score.
posted by The Whelk at 4:44 AM on June 19, 2009

WAY late to the party here (bookmarked it, forgot it, podcast reminded me of it), but I've got one more to add I don't think anyone's mentioned yet -- the Official Sneaking Theme. You know, the one where the protagonist is creeping lightly on tiptoes, raptor-handed -- the classic sneaking pose -- and with each furtive step comes the ominous piano music:

bum... bum... bum... bum... BUM! da-da-da-da bum... bum... bum... bum... BUM! da-da-da-da (etc.)

Anyway, I was trying to deduce the origin of this tune a few months ago, and found that its history is surprisingly muddled. This blog post first speculates that it's from Louis Armstrong's classic (and creepy) "Zat You, Santa Clause?" (available for listening here), but further investigation (including an old AskMe thread) suggested the piece is much older, from the silent era. Candidates include J.S. Zamecnik's 1913 composition "Mysterioso - Burglar Music 1" and the (apparently undated and anonymous) "Villain's Theme", which can be previewed on track 8 of this anthology of silent music.

It seems odd that such a ubiquitous theme would be of unknown authorship, but as a commenter in this thread points out:
Before my grandfather went to work for the Warner brothers as their accountant (and later Exec. VP Treasurer), he played nickelodeon piano for silent films in New York. He played only for a short period of time but really well, and he couldn't read a note of music. Most of the silent movie piano players in the city would share and swap themes, learn from each other, steal from each other, etc.

That's why I'm guessing it was passed around during those early formative days, just like a folk song was passed around. A note was changed here, a melody line there, and eventually it crept into the public conscience as a "known ditty." Yet, nobody knows exactly where it came from or who wrote it.
Interesting stuff.

On a different tack, I've been trying to identify another piece of iconic music. In an old episode of Family Guy, Peter wishes for a genie to grant him his own theme music. Wherever he goes, he's accompanied by appropriate background ditties, most of which seem to have been created especially for the show. At one point, however, he gets on a bus and is accompanied by a distinctive and fast-paced brass number which he identifies as "classic traveling music" to an irritated bystander (you can listen to that part of the scene in this video). I've tried in vain to track down the name of this music, but unfortunately the only place it's been speculated on is Yahoo Answers, where precisely one person (fails) to answer in useless asshole fashion. Anybody else recognize the tune?
posted by Rhaomi at 10:52 PM on June 23, 2009 [3 favorites]

...and I'm just now noticing that the "sneaking music" has been identified by rongorongo as "Mysterioso Pizzicato", a piece I'd never come across in my search. But the link given for it has a lot of interesting information (especially the more benign minuet it possibly originated from) and definitely fits -- thanks for that!
posted by Rhaomi at 11:49 PM on June 23, 2009

Extended bedroom scenes (but classy-like) - Gato Barbieri playing this or this.
posted by rongorongo at 1:10 PM on June 24, 2009

Cartoon showing scenes from a factory or a complicated contraption Powerhouse also commonly used Pee Wee's Breakfast Machine.
posted by borkencode at 12:35 PM on July 1, 2009

I would just like to add to the pile: Green Onions by Booker T and the MGs. Sometimes used when planning a heist, or getting away with one. Or just being cool.

(note: the version I've heard is often slower than the youtube linked one. That makes it even cooler)
posted by indiebass at 1:03 PM on July 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Shooting down German WW2 planes over the English Channel against long odds? You need William Walton's "'Crown Imperial' Coronation March"
posted by rongorongo at 7:41 AM on July 13, 2009

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