Having once considered himself “one of the staunchest opponents of classical music”, Charles Schultz discovered the symphonies of Beethoven in 1946 and became an avid fan of classical music with a prodigious record collection. He also created the piano-playing Schroeder, a Beethoven fanatic, for his comic strip Peanuts.
A well-worn 1951 LP in Schultz’s collection by the pianist Friedrich Gulda of Beethoven’s Hammerklavier sonata may have inspired a series of strips from the early 1950s in which Schroeder is seen playing this work. The one reproduced above is the only one in which the piece is named, though it still relies on the reader to read music—and German!—for a full identification. Note Schultz’s imitation of German Fraktur script for both the work title and his signature.
This according to “Michaelis’ Schulz, Schulz’s Beethoven, and the construction of biography” by William Meredith (The Beethoven journal XXV/2 [winter 2008], pp. 79–91; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 2008-8914).
Today is Schultz’s 100th birthday! Below, Gulda performs the Hammerklavier sonata in 1970.
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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.
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.
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