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Musical Space: Cartoons


Composer Carl Stalling created some of the most recognizable musical scores of the last century, the sounds that fueled many Saturday mornings and weekday afternoons.

[Music: Carl Stalling: “Coyote and Road Runner”]

You may not know Carl Stalling’s name but you do know his work.  He was the composer who scored the music for Warner Brothers’ Looney Tunes cartoons, the music that was the perfect accompaniment to sugar-cereal-fueled Saturday mornings, the music we associate with Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Foghorn Leghorn, and their various escapades.

The scope and pacing of this music is like watching an opera at ten times the speed. Stalling meticulously follows the delirious screen action with extreme changes of key, tempo, meter, theme, and juxtapositions of style, from classical to pop to jazz to Broadway to folk tunes. This musical blender broke down barriers in music composition and influenced late 20th century avant garde composers. And even the Canadian rock band Rush, who paid homage to stalling with the 1978 instrumental, “La Villa Strangiato.”

[Music: Rush: “La Villa Strangiato” from Hemispheres]

And, thanks to Stalling’s use of musical quotes from pieces such as Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody,”

[Music: Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody”]

Almost all of us had some exposure to classical music before we entered first grade.

[Music: “Hungarian Rhapsody”]

Mark Foley is principal double bass of the Wichita Symphony Orchestra and professor of double bass and head of Jazz Studies at Wichita State University.