Music can conjure up a whole load of emotions but how often do we think of laughter as being one of them? Laughter is a great medicine and best of all it’s free! Laughter is of course subjective, but I’m hopeful that at least one of these suggestions will promote at the very least a chortle, if not a full blown belly laugh. I won’t be discussing parody songs that have simply re-written words for comedic effect.
I Love To Laugh - Mary Poppins (Sherman Brothers)
Let’s get this one out of the way first! There’s nothing wrong with the musical (in fact it’s one of my favourites) but I don’t want to dwell on musical theatre! Written by the Sherman brothers the song takes a very true look at laughter. A variety of laughs are explored but the truest thing sung is the line “When things strike me as funny I can’t hide it inside.” We’ve all been there I’m sure…a situation where you know you shouldn’t laugh but a funny thought or memory pops in your mind and your shoulders start shaking uncontrollably, and the more you hold it in the worse it gets.
Tuba Smarties - Sky (Herbie Flowers)
Sky, were an instrumental progressive rock band in the 70’s and 80’s. Herbie Flowers, the bassist composed this light-hearted piece and it was often played during the band’s live shows, as an encore. The piece is a Tuba solo which is humorous in itself, but the fact that the trumpet takes over much to the dismay of the Tuba player makes it even better. Flowers also wrote another Tuba based piece called “Dance Of The Big Faeries”, which does bring a smile to the face, but not as much as Smarties.
Chicken Run (Main Theme) - Chicken Run (John Powell & Harry Gregson-Williams)
Chicken Run was brought to us by Aardman Animations who brought us Wallace & Gromit, and numerous other brilliant films. The film started as a spoof of the 1963 film “The Great Escape” and the music has that kind of feel throughout. There’s even a nod to cowboy films such as “Big Country”, but the use of kazoos is what brings a smile to my face and sometimes a small laugh. Powell and Gregson-Williams also worked together on the movie Shrek
A Musical Joke (K522) - Mozart
This divertimento (light-hearted small ensemble piece) was composed for two horns and string quartet. If you don’t know much about “the rules” of music the piece can still raise a smile as Mozart is being satirical and poking fun at incompetent composers by demonstrating harmonic and rhythmic errors. Included in these errors are discords (clashes) in the horns, clumsy orchestration, starting the slow movement in the wrong key, and using whole tone scales. The whole piece ends with a rather exasperated “parp” from the horns.
Musica Ricercata - György Ligeti
This piano piece uses just one note played at different octaves and rhythms. It gets fast and frenetic and one cannot help but admire the pianists ability to cope with the rhythmic challenges presented in the piece. I will admit, I find myself smiling. However, the final payoff is at the end when after all that…well I don’t want to spoil the surprise but it made me chuckle.
Symphony No. 94 (Surprise) - Haydn
Haydn wrote 104 symphonies and a lot of them have a subtitle. Number 94 with it’s subtitle of “Surprise” gives you an idea of what to expect, but not specifically. Unlike his “Clock” symphony (101) because of the ticking rhythm in the second movement, the surprise is…a surprise. Haydn said of it “That’ll make the ladies jump” (or something similar). Even though I’m expecting it to happen, it still makes me laugh.
Beethoven’s Colonel Bogey - Dudley Moore
Dudley Moore was a well known comedian and actor famous for being a part of “Beyond The Fringe”, his work with Peter Cook, as well as numerous film roles. However, he was also a fantastic pianist. He took a well known piece of military music (“Colonel Bogey March” - Malcom Arnold) and turned it into a brilliant virtuoso solo piano piece…complete with “Beethoven Ending”