Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Bowman, Durrell. “Cut Every Corner: Intertextuality and Parody in the Music of The Simpsons.” MUSICultures 47 (2020): 94-115.

Musical parody in The Simpsons comes in several different forms and is a key component in the show’s function as television’s “king’s fool” or “court jester,” chipping away at authority and risking rebellion. The Simpsons uses music in five main ways: original songs, variations on its title theme, background music cues, references to existing music, and musician guest stars. Danny Elfman’s theme music for The Simpsons draws heavily from 1960s cartoon music, Hoyt Curtin’s theme music for The Jetsons in particular, lending the show a cheeky, self-conscious aesthetic. Frequently, series composer Alf Clausen writes self-deflating genre-parodies of Elfman’s theme for the end-titles, often relating to the content of the episode (for example, aping the 1964 Addams Family theme and adding a theremin for the season 5 Halloween episode, “Treehouse of Horror IV”). Guest stars including Tito Puente and Sonic Youth have also contributed similar end-title parodies. In addition to making fun of itself, The Simpsons parodies music from other TV shows and movies. For example, Cut Every Corner from the season 8 episode “Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(Annoyed Grunt)cious” parodies A Spoonful of Sugar from Disney’s 1964 Mary Poppins, deflating the classic film. Guest stars on The Simpsons are also the target of self-parody, with musicians in particular poking fun at their own music. Musical references in The Simpsons are fluid. The characters’ ages are frozen, but their music comes from a wide range of eras. Music in The Simpsons participates in the show’s self-aware tone and jests at the expense of various kinds of authority.

Works: Danny Elfman: The Simpsons main title theme (98-100); Alf Clausen: soundtrack to The Simpsons (99-109); Alf Clausen, Al Jean, and Mike Reiss: Cut Every Corner (102-3); Jeff Martin: Capitol City (104-5).

Sources: Hoyt Curtin: The Jetsons main title theme (98-100), Meet the Flintstones (102); Danny Elfman: The Simpsons main title theme (99-102); Lee Adams and Charles Strouse: Those Were the Days (102); R. M. and R. B. Sherman: A Spoonful of Sugar (102-3); Johyn Kander and Fred Ebb: New York, New York (104-5); John Mellencamp: Jack and Diane (105); Burt Bacharach and Hal David: (They Long to Be) Close to You (106-7); John Williams: score to Star Wars (107); Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67 (107); Maurice Jarre: score to Witness (108); Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind: score to The Shining (109).

Index Classifications: 1900s, 2000s, Film

Contributed by: Matthew Van Vleet

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Musical Borrowing and Reworking - - 2024
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