You know that song? That one that’s always in the background of that cartoon? Here are 11 of those songs.
The music featured in this list isn’t pop music. Almost all of these are classical, orchestral songs that have become pop culture staples in the background of movies, TV shows, commercials… and cartoons. So very many cartoons. I hate to say that I recognized most of these songs first and foremost from cartoons… but yeah, I recognized most of these songs first and foremost from cartoons.
I keep returning to the Seinfeld quote when Elaine says to Jerry, “You know, it is so sad. All your knowledge of high culture comes from Bugs Bunny cartoons.”
Here are 11 pieces of music all of which you’ll probably recognize… but none of which you could probably name.
1 | A Midsummer Night’s Dream Wedding March by Mendelssohn
Where you know it from: A majestic wedding; a not-so-majestic wedding; really, any wedding portrayed in any form of media in history but no wedding you’ve personally attended in real life.
2 | Minuetto by Luigi Boccherini
Where you know it from: Background music to establish that we’re at a party being thrown by very rich people, sure to lend itself to an embarrassing fish-out-of-water situation for our main character.
3 | Four Seasons, spring movemnt by Vivaldi
Where you know it from: Background music to establish that we’re at a garden affair being thrown by very rich people, sure to lend itself to an embarrassing fish-out-of-water situation for our main character.
4 | Spanish Flea by Herb Albert
Where you know it from: A character being played off a stage or local talk show after saying something embarrassing; a mid-20th century game show.
5 | Take Five by the Dave Brubeck Quartet
Where you know it from: Background music at a jazz club scene; a character in a hat walking through a foggy night on the Lower East Side of Manhattan; characters pulling a minor heist during a film set in the ’60s or ’70s.
6 | Carnival of the Animals: the Aquarium by Camille Saint-Saens
Where you know it from: A character having a flashback to a mythical, somewhat foreboding, childhood event; going through any sort of looking glass; an underwater mystery.
7 | Gay Activity by Clive Richardson
Where you know it from: A ’50s instructional video; a spoof of an old TV show featuring a woman doing housework; you accidentally stumbled upon it while searching for the phrase “gay activity.”
8 | Morning Mood by Edvard Greig
Where you know it from: A cartoon setting up a tranquil morning nature scene sure to be jarringly ruined by shenanigans.
9 | Powerhouse (1:28 mark) by Raymond Scott
(skip to 1:28)
Where you know it from: A character putting together and/or executing a super-elaborate Rube Goldberg device.
10 | Also Sprach Zarathustra by Richard Strauss
Where you know it from: Early apes being born; people emerging from an underground bunker or society as if they’re metaphorically being born; Ric Flair walking to the ring; 2001: A Space Odyssey; one of pop culture’s eight billion 2001: A Space Odyssey spoofs.
11 | Sabre Dance by Aram Khachaturian
Where you know it from: monkey riding a unicycle; someone spinning plates on sticks; literally no other scenario in the world than those two.