I mentioned on Monday’s blog that, like many American kids, my first experience of an orchestra and a conductor was through cartoons, specifically through Bugs Bunny cartoons. I spent many Saturday mornings watching Bugs and Daffy and Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, and over the years I’ve come to realize just how brilliant those cartoons are – not just for the animation, the crazy storylines, and Mel Blanc’s inexhaustible supply of funny voices, but for the music.
What makes them brilliant is the multiple levels they work on. As a kid, I had no idea what “The Rabbit of Seville” or “What’s Opera Doc” were parodying. When I got older and first heard Rossini’s Barber of Seville and Wagner’s cycle of Ring operas, I experienced that shock of recognition – “oh, that’s where that Bugs Bunny music comes from!” – which would become a recurring theme in my listening life. Songs from the Great American Songbook, small combo jazz by Raymond Scott, tone poems by Mendelssohn… over the years I would listen to these very different types of music only to realize I’d heard them before. In Bugs Bunny cartoons. When I mention this to people, I am no longer surprised when the response is “that happens to me all the time too!”
There is no reason why you or I should know the song title “The Fountain in the Park.” It’s ancient - a popular song from 1884. No one sings it anymore. But if they did, it would go like this: “I was strolling through the park one day/in the very merry month of May…”
Go ahead; I know what you wanna say. “That’s where that song comes from? Bugs sings that!” We thought we were just hanging out, binging on Cap’n Crunch and wasting time with cartoons on Saturday mornings. Who knew we were getting a subversive music appreciation class at the same time?
Do you have a favorite musical memory from Looney Tunes or Merry Melodies? Leave a comment.