Music, like all types of art, can transform your mood, quickly take you to another world, or express emotions regardless of the language you speak, and classical music is no exception. Indeed, when it’s part of a soundtrack, classical pieces by Beethoven, Chopin, or Vivaldi can immerse you in what the characters and their personalities are feeling, and highlight a story (or episode).
In 1853 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences said that “music is the universal language of mankind” (more than mathematics, who would have thought, right?). This is very technical, so you better check it out in each of these well-known TV series songs that you’ll surely love.
This psychological horror drama, released in September 2020 on the Netflix platform, focused on nurse Mildred Ratched (Sarah Paulson), a character who came from Ken Kesey’s masterpiece, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which has been adapted several times.
The main theme for the 8-episode series was “Danse Macabre,” by French composer Camille Saint-Saens. This piece, which alluded to Death playing the violin at midnight to make the skeletons dance, fitted perfectly with the villainous Ratched, who entered the psychiatric hospital as the epitome of a perfect nurse but with disturbing darkness.
The Big Bang Theory
For all the fans of The Big Bang Theory, it was more than evident that geek and nerd references were going to be very present (cough, cough, don’t look at Star Trek and DC superheroes), but the song that appeared in Season 4, Episode 19 “The Zarnecki Incursion” gave it an epic vibe. As the group traveled to recover Sheldon’s (Jim Parsons) hacked World of Warcraft account, Raj (Kunal Nayyar) chose a theme appropriate for the road trip: “The Ride of the Valkyries.”
This theme’s part of German composer Richard Wagner’s second opera, The Valkyrie, and was often used to convey heroism before a confrontation, such as occurred with the group trying to get faster (although Sheldon was complaining about Leonard driving fast). Of course, after listening to the same track during the trip and getting stuck in traffic, they lost their epic inspiration (like rolling a 1 on a d20 die roll).
What happens when you put together one of the most successful American animated series on television with one of the catchiest classical themes? That’s what The Simpsons brought up in Season 1, Episode 2, “Bart the Genius.”
The episode where Bart was mistaken for a child genius was upstaged by the scene of the Simpsons going to the opera. Bart’s “Toreador, don’t spit on the floor” was translated into so many languages without losing his peculiar sense of humor, and made known among the series’ nascent fandom the “March of the Toreadors Suite No. 1,” a theme from the famous opera Carmen by French composer Georges Bizet.
There are times when you only need to play 10 seconds of a song to recognize it, no matter if it’s pop, rock, or classical music, as happened at the beginning of Arrow Season 3, Episode 17, “Suicidal Tendencies.”
It was the wedding of Lyla Michaels and John Diggle, friends of Oliver (Stephen Amell), whose ceremony was conducted by Ray Palmer. After he declared them husband and wife, immediately began to sound in the background “Spring, 1st Movement Allegro,” by the Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi. A suitable theme for a joyful and loving celebration, which would later be interrupted by Deadshot.
If you ask your relatives if there’s any piece of classical music in their memory that has been so well-known, they may recall the theme song of the 1960s TV series, the Green Hornet, about a masked superhero (Van Williams) who fought criminals with his accomplice Kato (Bruce Lee).
The piece used as the main theme is “Flight of the Bumblebee,” by Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, a song of frenetic rhythm played in an agile way, so the audience quickly related it to the main character, and even today in many countries it is still linked to the Green Hornet.
When Wild West fans remember the TV series Lone Ranger, they may picture that masked cowboy (Clayton Moore) riding his horse Silver and his trusty friend Tonto (Jay SIlverheels), with whom he dispensed justice against villains. To that scene adds a fast melody that encourages you to gallop across the countryside and as a consequence you get one of the best-known openings on American TV, that has been adapted to films, novels, and comic books.
That’s what the producers of the 1950s series came up with when they sought an appropriate theme and chose “The March of the Swiss Soldiers,” which is part of the William Tell Overture by Italian musician Gioachino Rossini. Since then, every time you think of horseback riding, you’ll have to resist the urge to yell “Hi-yo, Silver! Away!”
In life, you had to assume a responsibility that you didn’t want, and on many occasions, you must face it straight on, just like Ikari Shinji, a teenager with little self-confidence, and the protagonist of the anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion, by director Hideaki Anno.
Shinji’s personality was reflected in Episode 17, “Lies and Silence.” After visiting his mother’s grave and returning home, he decided to play the “Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major,” by German musician Johann Sebastian Bach. According to Shinji’s own words, he hasn’t improved despite playing since he was 5 yo, and the only reason he performs is that nobody has stopped him. Still, the theme is an enticing one to listen to in such a troubled atmosphere as the plot presented in Evangelion.
When the sitcom Mom premiered in 2013, audiences were introduced to the idea that everyone could be vindicated from a difficult life, just as Christy Plunkett (Anna Faris), a single mother in rehab.
Befitting the plot of this TV series, CBS chose Russian composer Mikhail Glinka’s “Overture to Ruslan and Lyudmilla,” a fast-paced tune for the show’s opening, along with photographs of the heroine in her old wanderings and later, with her family in a typical family portrait. Nothing like an epic song to start over (and over, and over again).
The Kid From The Eight
One of the most popular sitcoms in the Americas was El Chavo del 8, which told the story of Chavo, an orphan who lived inside a barrel with several neighbors and their children in a typical Mexican neighborhood and was created by screenwriter and actor Roberto Gómez Bolaños, known as Chespirito.
His fans knew that his nickname came from his Shakespearean way of writing and his taste for classical music. That’s why this comedy had an arrangement by Jean-Jacques Perrey titled “The Elephant Never Forgets,” inspired by Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Turkish March,” as its opening. A melody that for many viewers may evoke fond memories and laughter.
Everyone knows that thievery is wrong, but one scene, in particular, may change your mind. From Season 2, Episode 3 of the BBC TV series Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch), “The Reichenbach Fall,” you can’t help but admire the geniality, and charm of James Moriarty (Andrew Scott).
Producers didn’t hesitate to select Rossini’s “La Gazza Ladra (The Thieving Magpie)” to accompany this criminal mind, a very appropriate choice for the scene of Moriarty stealing the British Crown Jewels while listening to this tune and mocking the security of the Tower of London, Bank of England and Pentonville Prison. Now you have a good theme whenever you fancy some mischief.
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