Morning Music: The Simpsons Theme

Danny ElfmanCartoons often have great music to go along with them. Unfortunately for our purposes this week, most of them have vocals like the theme from The Jetsons. But one song I’ve always really liked is Danny Elfman’s theme for The Simpsons. It so reaches back to old cartoon themes. I don’t actually know if it is performed by a real band. It certainly sounds like it is, which is all that actually matters.

The song is written in the “acoustic scale.” Basically, it is just the major scale with an augmented fourth and a flatted seventh. It’s the augmented fourth on the third note of the melody that gives it that cool sound: C-E-F#. No one would expect that F# coming out of the gate. Of course, over time it is impossible to imagine any other note. Otherwise, it most reminds me of The Flintstones, even though melodically and harmonically they don’t share much. But they feel kind of the same.

10 thoughts on “Morning Music: The Simpsons Theme

  1. Elfman’s so great. If Tim Burton never makes another decent film, we’ll always owe him for getting Elfman into film scoring. Normally I assume that composers are inspired by visuals; the better the material, the better the score. (Not a hard-and-fast rule, but it seems to apply to composers like Elfman and Williams.) TV themes probably always do the music first, then make up a visual segment to match, so that’s gotta be fun work in a different way.

    • Elfman has said exactly that about himself.

      In general, film scoring (regardless of what it is for) is done on ridiculously short time frames. It’s odd, because music is such a critical aspect of the viewer’s experience. The film (or episode) has to be pretty much together before they start. But I assume they have already worked out basic themes. And with television shows, they are going to use the same themes over the course of the show.

  2. This song is so familiar to me that even hearing just one or two notes creates a cascade of memories. But I don’t know anything about the composition of music so I just enjoy the tune without understanding.

    One day I should fix that.

      • I once took guitar lessons. During one I got sick and threw up all over the stairs and never went back.

        • I don’t recommend guitar to people just starting out. For one thing, it hurts. Learning an instrument is hard enough. But mostly, it isn’t intuitive like a keyboard or a woodwind. A good instrument to start on is a penny whistle. It’s cheep and you can learn a lot.

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