pop music written for symphonic orchestra
May 27, 2007 6:48 AM   Subscribe

Looking for examples of pop music written for symphonic orchestra or that draws heavy use of typical symphonic instruments.

After recently getting obsessed with the french 60s pop of France Gall i am looking for pop songs that use symphonic orchestration. Especially the songs "poupee de cire..." and "polichinelle" with its use of cembalo and flute have impressed me.

I dont want ballads or jazz influenced song but more of the fast pop sound typical of the two songs mentioned. Neither am i looking for songs that was written for other instruments and rearranged.
posted by ilike to Media & Arts (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not familiar with the pieces you cite, so if you can provide URLs to sound samples that would help a lot.

My first thoughts along these lines are classic 70s rock like Procol Harum's "Whiter Shade of Pale", most of Rick Wakeman's albums, and so on. Even though you say you're not looking for ballads.

There are also comparatively obscure albums such as The Verlaines' Bird Dog, which uses keys, tempos and instrumentation more common in classical music and apply them to pop music structures. But those might not be what you have in mind.
posted by ardgedee at 7:31 AM on May 27, 2007

Bittersweet Symphony would be one, sort of.

I'd also suggest Yes, Anastasia by Tori Amos. (It's on Under The Pink).
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 7:33 AM on May 27, 2007

ardgedee: See here and here on youtube.
posted by stereo at 7:38 AM on May 27, 2007

What About Me by Moving Pictures has the piano and an orchestra.
posted by goo at 7:58 AM on May 27, 2007

Ack - no ballads. Scratch that - sorry.
posted by goo at 7:58 AM on May 27, 2007

Check out the band Divine Comedy.
posted by Dallasfilm at 8:02 AM on May 27, 2007

Phil Spector is the archetypal orchestral pop producer. Ike & Tina Turner's "River Deep Mountain High" is often referred to as one of his best works (though the audio in the Youtube clip is awful).

I also suggest late 60s-70s music from the San Remo festival in Italy. Some examples: Marisa Sannia, Carmena Villani.

Finally, Googoosh is an Iranian pop singer who often used very orchestral backings (1, 2)
posted by ciocarlia at 8:10 AM on May 27, 2007

Mercury Rev, particularly "Deserter's Songs" and "All is Dream".

Also, the new Portastatic album
posted by Andy Harwood at 9:07 AM on May 27, 2007

Thanks for all the replies but nothing suggested is really what i am looking for. Please see the youtube vids linked by stereo for the songs i mentioned.

Also i should add that i am not interested in rock, etno or soul music that is performed with a big band but more of a white western pop music performed on orchestra. Electric guitars are definitively out and i would say even piano is borderline. Symphonic instruments like Basoon and cembalo is what i am looking for.
posted by ilike at 9:59 AM on May 27, 2007

Madness had lots of these in their slaying-all-before-them 1984-86 period. "The Sun and the Rain" has a huge string arrangement (check) but it's not the focus of the entire mix (check).

Several examples involving Anne Dudley's and Andrew Poppy's arrangements on "Infected" by The The.

And you can't move for orchestras if you go anywhere near ELO. I believe "Mr Blue Sky" may actually have been the direct trigger event/cause of punk.
posted by genghis at 11:07 AM on May 27, 2007

Meh, scrub that (which is what I get for leaving that comment unposted for over an hour).
posted by genghis at 11:09 AM on May 27, 2007

ilike: Finally got around to the YouTube clips.

That style of music is Yé-yé. Wikipedia's Yé-yé entry is a good starting point for more music in that style. The best, maybe only, modern practitioner is April March. The YouTube link leads to a couple of fan videos for songs off "Chrominance Decoder" (and a couple videos with songs from her garage rock CDs, so browse a bit).

You might also like some of the Shibuya Sound bands from mid-90s Japan, like Pizzicato 5.
posted by ardgedee at 12:12 PM on May 27, 2007

How about Petula Clark, or Dionne Warwick singing Burt Bacharach songs? Some of Pizzicato Five's songs are in a similar style.
posted by euphotic at 1:01 PM on May 27, 2007

Days of Future Passed by the Moody Blues is symphonic, and many of them are fast and poppy (Twilight Time, Forever Afternoon), rather than slow ballads (Nights in White Satin).
posted by CrunchyFrog at 2:16 PM on May 27, 2007

The Eurovision song contest participants were required to use a symphony orchestra up through 1973. Of course, many have a pop sensibility to them, like Poupee de Cire. So maybe those winners are a place to start.

Most can be found easily via Youtube search. Here are links to a couple-- "Merci Chérie" by Udo Jürgens and "Non ho l'età (per amarti)" by Gigliola Cinquetti, L'amour est bleu (Vicky Leandro).

A few others that more or less similar in this vein (still maybe not exactly what you're looking for): Gigliola Cinquetti "Sì", La pioggia (Gall or Cinquetti), Bebe requin (Gall), Baby Pop (Gall), Nous ne sommes pas des anges (Gall), La Rose des vents (Gall).
posted by flug at 3:43 PM on May 27, 2007

I love France Gall! You should also look into Chantal Goya and Serge Gainsbourg for a similar feel.

Brian Wilson's, Smile also immediately came to mind.
posted by Packy_1962 at 3:46 PM on May 27, 2007

Def. Isobel and maybe It's Oh So Quiet, but that is more of a big band sound (by Bjork)
posted by Eringatang at 4:53 PM on May 27, 2007

There are a ton of indie-pop bands that do Phil Spector throwback kind of stuff, and even more that just use a lot of classical-ish orchestration.

Sufjan Stevens, Camera Obscura, Belle and Sebastian, Lucky Soul, Final Fantasy, Stars, and The Arcade Fire (who covered "Poupée de Cire, Poupée de Son"), to name a few. Most of those bands also use rock instruments, but so did the kind of music you're talking about, so I don't really get why you'd want to exclude anything with guitar or piano. Also, I make music kind of like this.
posted by ludwig_van at 6:41 PM on May 27, 2007

But of the bands I just mentioned, Camera Obscura are the closest to that particular sound and they do it the most consistently.
posted by ludwig_van at 6:46 PM on May 27, 2007

1000 Umbrellas by XTC may be what you're looking for, though it seems a bit darker in composition/arrangement. Song sample here.

XTC's album Skylarking has always been one of my favorite pop-rock CD's as far as arrangements go. The instruments do vary a bit from what you want but evoke a similar atmosphere (with a stronger amount of new-wave and Beatles influence, however).
posted by Benjy at 10:12 PM on May 27, 2007

Not at all familiar with the stuff you're talking about, but you might want to check out Vanessa Carlton, especially her first album, Be Not Nobody. Her pre-singing background is as a ballet dancer, so she knows classical, and along with her own pop piano and singing she has a large, effective and essential backup orchestra.

Though I hesitate to mention it, you might also look at Yanni's Live At the Acropolis CD. For the most part I consider Yanni YANAK (yet another New Age keyboardist), and the Acropolis performance reworks a lot of music from his "Reflections of Passion" CD, but adding full orchestra and some fantastic violin work makes it a tour-de-force.
posted by lhauser at 11:04 PM on May 28, 2007

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