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April 7, 2012 8:56 AM   Subscribe

What are the most catchy, memorable musical themes you know of?

Classical, movie music, traditional...anything is good! Shorter is better. I need some inspiration for things to improvise on.
posted by non-kneebiter to Media & Arts (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Well, the motif opening Beethoven's Fifth Symphony has to be near the all time top.
posted by thelonius at 9:01 AM on April 7, 2012

Powerhouse has two great and considerably different themes: here and here. They were memorably used in various Looney Tunes cartoons.

Grieg's In the Hall of the Mountain King is pretty memorable and gets used a lot.
posted by jedicus at 9:10 AM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

The theme tune ('Asteroid' by Pete Moore) used by UK cinema advertisers Pearl & Dean seems to have stuck in the nation's collective consciousness.
posted by Abiezer at 9:11 AM on April 7, 2012

Oh, also from Grieg's Peer Gynt suite, Morning.
posted by jedicus at 9:12 AM on April 7, 2012

The theme from the 1812 Overture is pretty memorable as well. Pachelbel's Canon, of course; the Musica Antiqua Köln version is by far the best in my opinion.

From modern composers: I find Michael Nyman's An Eye for Optical Theory to be quite catchy and memorable. Ennio Morricone has written some very memorable themes. "Gabriel's Oboe" from The Mission is a classic.

Pop music one-hit wonders are going to be a pretty rich source of catchy themes.
posted by jedicus at 9:28 AM on April 7, 2012

There's also Tchaikovksy's Marche Slave, which you will probably recognize even if you didn't know you knew it.
posted by dilettante at 9:52 AM on April 7, 2012

Recently discussed on the passing of Robert Sherman, It's A Small World was the the inspiration for this Atlantic article which may be of interest to you: It's an Annoying Song (After All): In pop music, what's the line between catchy and irritating?
posted by fairmettle at 10:05 AM on April 7, 2012

The theme music from 2001: A Space Odyssey. I still remember the joy when I figured out the opening notes on trumpet and played them constantly to the dismay of my roommates.
posted by ruhroh at 10:14 AM on April 7, 2012

The "Bridge Over THe River Kwai" theme
posted by thelonius at 10:15 AM on April 7, 2012

The "Bridge Over THe River Kwai" theme

More accurately known as The Colonel Bogey March.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:19 AM on April 7, 2012

You want "The Book of World-Famous Music" by James J. Fuld.
posted by rhizome at 10:36 AM on April 7, 2012

Gnossienne by Erik Satie

When Johnny Comes Marching Home by Louis Lambert
posted by griphus at 10:53 AM on April 7, 2012

RJD2's "A Beautiful Mine" (used as opening music for Mad Men)
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:32 PM on April 7, 2012

Tom's Diner

(I'm so sorry).
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:13 PM on April 7, 2012

the final Jeopardy music?
posted by katypickle at 2:20 PM on April 7, 2012

You asked for memorable and catchy - for me that means TV theme music from my youth - here are some of my favorites:
Hill Street Blues
Welcome Back Kotter
Mission Impossible
Greatest American Hero
Hawaii Five-O
The Rockford Files
Barney Miller
WKRP in Cincinnati
posted by kbar1 at 3:54 PM on April 7, 2012

How about the MASH theme song?
posted by goosechasing at 3:59 PM on April 7, 2012

This is pretty low-culture but I loved the theme from "Terriers."
posted by fivesavagepalms at 4:33 PM on April 7, 2012

Growing up, the local ABC affiliate used the "Tar Sequence" from Cool Hand Luke as their intro music (skip to 2:10 for the peak bit). One of many fine works by Lalo Schifrin.
posted by Bron at 4:55 PM on April 7, 2012

Theme from the Magnificent Seven
posted by klarck at 5:43 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was going to add The Magnificent Seven!

Also the theme from The Big Country!
posted by jgirl at 7:18 PM on April 7, 2012

Librae Solidi Denari
posted by pompomtom at 5:12 AM on April 8, 2012

I've had this Windsong Perfume ad stuck in my head forever.
posted by zinon at 7:49 AM on April 8, 2012

Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik
Raiders of the Lost Ark theme
All the motifs from Star Wars
The Ride of the Valkyries
Take Five (Brubeck and Desmond, I think)
posted by bardophile at 8:04 AM on April 8, 2012

Habanera and Les Toreadors from Carmen.
posted by SisterHavana at 12:54 PM on April 8, 2012

weirdly this theme from the Bolla Valpolicella Wine ads (circa late 70's) has stuck with me from the moment I first heard it.

also, the tune "Jordu" (Clifford Brown recorded it..long ago. written by Duke Jordan) is super memorable
..for me at least. (has some nice changes for improvising upon .. here

and then of course there's "The Odd Couple" theme.. slick/compact usage of tones from the pentatonic scale.

and ah. ..i should mention Corageous cat and minute Mouse..another tune that pops into my head all the time (I watched that cartoon in the early sixties..)..

this is fun!
posted by The_Auditor at 5:49 PM on April 8, 2012

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