Tag Archives: Cartoons

Meeting the Simpsons

The Simpsons

The one-minute opening of The Simpsons, a luscious symphonic overture complete with sound effects, introduces the five family characters plus the small-town suburban culture that surrounds them.

Inscribed within Hollywood’s cinematographic language, the music is a powerful generic marker often projecting absurdity and irony. Notwithstanding the pantomimic effect, these comedic contradictions address the dysfunctional life of the Simpsons, defining the American Dream in ways distinct from other television shows from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.

This according to “Trope and irony in The Simpsons’ overture” by Martin Kutnowski (Popular music and society XXXI/5 [December 2008] pp. 599–616). Below, the sequence in question.

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W.A. Mozart, cartoonist

mozart sketch1

Mozart’s wittiness is famously illuminated through many of his letters. Less known are his small humorous sketches, which appear here and there throughout his correspondence.

The sketches range from mysterious stick figures to bizarre caricatures; some are still riddles to scholars.

This according to “Mozart, der Zeichner” by Gabriele Ramsauer, an essay included in Mozart-Bilder–Bilder Mozarts: Ein Porträt zwischen Wunsch und Wirklichkeit (Salzburg: Pustet, 2013, pp. 25–28).

Above, a drawing at the top of a letter from Mozart to his cousin Maria Anna Thekla Mozart, known as Bäsle, dated 10 May 1780, titled Engel (Angel), with labels fig. I Kopf (head), fig. II Frißur (hairdo), fig. III Nasn (nose), fig. IV Brust (breast), fig. V Hals (throat), fig. VI Aug (eye); inscribed below VI: Hier ißt leer (Here is empty).

The full text of the letter (untranslated) is here; below, the finale of Mozart’s Ein musikalischer Spaß, which ends with his celebrated foray into polytonality.

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Astérix and instruments

 

Astérix le Gaulois, a series of comics written by René Goscinny and illustrated by Albert Uderzo between 1960 and 1999, received much acclaim for the attention to detail in Uderzo’s drawings of ancient civilizations.

Particularly interesting to an organologist are the illustrations of instruments—including carnyx, buccina, lur, bagpipe, harp, lyre, pipes, and drums—used by ancient Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, and Gauls.

In the free online resource Musical instruments of antiquity as illustrated in “The adventures of Asterix the Gaul” Daniel A Russell compares Uderzo’s illustrations to photographs of period instruments and comments on their acoustic qualities, performance techniques, and the roles they played in their respective societies, both in real history and as experienced by Astérix and his friends.

Above, Uderzo’s depiction of a banquet accompanied by a kithara, a double tibia, and a frame drum (click to enlarge).

Related articles:

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Cartoons

Cartoonists have always recognized music as a rich source for humor. The mere inclusion of an accordion or a banjo can make a situation comical, as Gary Larson’s The far side has repeatedly demonstrated, and caricatures of musicians have long been a staple of popular journalism.

The self-taught French cartoonist Jean-Jacques Sempé (b.1932) has been drawn to musical subjects throughout his career; The musicians, a collection of his characteristically nuanced and captionless music-themed drawings, was published by Workman in 1980, and Phaidon Press issued a similar collection of postcards in 2006. Sempé’s cartoons, many with musical subjects, have graced nearly 100 covers of The New Yorker.

Related article: Beethoven and Peanuts

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