Classical Creep

I was listening to a song by Blue Oyster Cult and recognized part of “Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini.” Granted, that was a very popular composition among rock guitarists at the time, but I had to grin. They also slipped in a bit of “Hall of the Mountain King” in a different piece. Classical music appears a lot more than people would think, once you really listen carefully. Bach, of course, and Sabaton uses Bach at least once per album, or so it feels. Orff’s Carmina Burana and the tune of the “Dies Irae” are also found in many places.

It’s intriguing how rock borrows from classical and liturgical sources. Soundtracks are (in)famous for it, and Basil Poledouris got into legal trouble for the original Conan score. Why John Williams didn’t get in similar trouble I’m not sure (both borrowed from Holst). The invention of the leitmotif by Wagner was a boon for later generations of composers. But to pull entire patterns and chunks of a composition . . . You don’t have to dig very deep into many rock-song writers’ backgrounds to find at least a basic education in the western musical canon. They have that tool in their toolboxes, and know what is available to fit the sound they want.

10 thoughts on “Classical Creep

  1. I spent my undergrad years listening to a lot of prog-rock, particularly Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Listening a half century later, some of the adaptations are a bit clunky, but the quotes were honestly attributed. It did get me to acquire several renditions of Moussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. “The hut on Fowl’s Legs”, AKA Baba-Yaga segments tends to be fun, no matter what arrangement is used. (OTOH, the pipe organ version is just a bit weird…)

  2. Hank Jr was sued for plagiarism. Showed up in court with a guitar, played 5 songs all with the same chord change.’Your Honor, there ain’t but 12 notes’. Case dismissed

  3. I remember being absolutely blown away by Mark Knopfler’s score for the movie “Local Hero” when it first came out. I had no idea that he was such a good musician!
    Also – very amused by the little throwaway scene in Spinal Tap, where the keyboardist rattles off a very classical, Scarlatti-ish sounding composition, and when complimented on it, tells the interviewer that it’s title is “Suck My Love Pump.”

  4. Just like all stories were already written by Shakespeare, we’re just copying them and stealing them… sigh… But most of the musicians only took bits/pieces, not the entire score!!!

  5. Every time I see the subject line, I see/think “Classic Creep”. IE A certain type of person. 😈

Comments are closed.