Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Monday, April 19, 2010 - 01:00 AM

Earth Day is this Friday. The idea has come a long way in the four decades since it was first observed, but it seems to me that one of the most obvious consequences of Earth Day must be New York City’s recycling laws, which have us all sorting the paper from the glass, and the glass from the plastic (and the plastic from the plastic--nothing is easy).

It’s become a habit, and when I go out of town on vacation to places where recycling isn’t a local custom, I find myself a little disgusted at the thought of just throwing all that stuff away. It can’t all be useless, can it? “Reduce, Reuse, Recyle” is an ecological mantra now, but it’s something composers have always done. 

Bach and Handel recycled melodies, sometimes more than once. Elgar kept his compositional scraps from boyhood, and turned them into the Wand of Youth suites. Gounod re-used a Bach prelude and made a world-famous setting of “Ave Maria.” Mahler reduced his first symphony by an entire movement, and that discarded movement stands alone now as Blumine, a concert piece. There was wonderful crossover musical recycling done in the 20th century, too, by composers who turned a Chopin theme into “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows,” or the melody from Ravel’s Pavane into “The Lamp is Low.” 

What’s your favorite example of musical recycling? Let us know, and we might re-use your ideas for our programming this week.

CORRECTION: Earth Day is Thursday.

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Comments [28]

Rosemarie Gates from United States

I know I'm late for Earth day and the Reduce, Recycle Comments (clicking on the "Comments" button didn't work, so I'm leaving my comments here), but this is my absolute favorite and I wanted to pass it on. This is actually a case of double recycling: Stravinsky recycled themes from Pergolesi's rarely performed, but spectacular opera buffa, Lo Frate 'nnamorato (1732), in his ballet piece, Pulcinella (1920), and then recycled some of those recycled tunes in his Suite Italienne (1925, 1932/33 and 1934). I knew about this, but could not remember the name of the recycling composer until I heard the Suite Italienne this week on WQXR and recognized the Pergolesi themes. Apparently Diaghilev, the ballet impressario, suggested that Stravinsky use the Pergolesi score to compose music for a new ballet. Pulcinella premiered in Paris in 1920. Apparently, Stravinsky felt that this composition led him to a new appreciation of the music of the past and greatly influenced his late compositions. I think your listeners would enjoy these musical tidbits.
With much appreciation,
Rosemarie Gates

May. 08 2010 11:04 AM


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Apr. 27 2010 01:41 PM
Silversalty from Brooklyn

I don't remember the piece (not a maven of classical music - just enjoy it) but I remember Jeff Spurgeon playing a piece and after it finished he said something about it reminding him of some nursery rhyme he couldn't quite remember. I think he was being "tongue in cheek" because I remembered it as the Curad band aid ditty - "Curad is ouchless."

Anyway .. you people do realize that in the current world you're all promoting piracy and the attacking of a lone woman by the Boston stranglers among us. Well, maybe not quite since these pieces (for the most part) have fallen out of copyright but the fact is "Reduce, reuse and recycle" seem much more akin the sentiments of Cory Doctorow than with Disney, the same company that repeatedly calls for extensions to copyright term limits while making billions off of other people's work.

If we didn't share our discoveries and build on the creativity of others we'd still be amazed at using fire to keep us warm. For cooking? You're kidding right? I love the taste of bloody entrails!


Since there doesn't seem to be a general "Join the Discussion" blog (I can perhaps understand why with the nature of fire on the web) I'd like to use this small corner to shout out my welcome back to Nimet (one name always seemed more than enough). Judging from the little I've had the chance to hear, her tone hasn't quite reached the lilt of the past but it's getting there with the acclimation to the new environs. When I put on the radio one recent morning a few weeks ago and heard her speaking, seemingly from the past, I actually wished that the music would stop so I could hear her speak again. Never had that thought about a DJ .. err .. host.

As I mentioned, I know little about classical music and maybe that's why I enjoy Bill McGlaughlin's "Saint Paul Sunday" where he makes the music personal and transparent - like a watch with no face. I think that's why I miss David Dubal's "Reflections from the Keyboard," where master artistry was examined and demonstrated leaving me with the sense of "so that's why I this "reaches" me and not that.

Sorry if I may have given the impression that the old was better than the new. I don't feel that way at all. Quite the reverse in fact. But we do build on the past.


Apr. 27 2010 10:48 AM
Mardi-Ellen Hill from Brooklyn Heights, NY

Absolutely adore this topic -- take on nature and music -- this is the basic concept driving my new book series-- platform MENDtm -- musical encode decode a platform designed by an inventor in my multigenerational saga; the narrative tells the tale of a musical family and how they work and re-work their diabolical magic on earth.!
Yes for earth day -- in all the glory and music that WQXR brings to it and their listeners!

Apr. 23 2010 04:35 PM

In Los Angeles in 1943, a particularly nasty radio commercial for a used car dealer, "MadMan Muntz," used Straus' "Artists Life" second theme. This is an example of recycling at its worst!

Apr. 23 2010 02:48 PM
Victor from Brooklyn

I believe there's a theme in an orchestral interlude in a Wagnerian opera that reappeared as "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes" in Disney's "Cinderella." Could you comment on that? Am I right or completely off the track?

Apr. 22 2010 11:23 AM
Susan Gutterman from NYC

I enjoy Jeff Spurgeon every weekday morning, & am thankful he's still here. But particularly this morning with the recycling theme. You played Boccherini's "La Musica Notturna Delle Strade di Madrid", but didn't mention that it is in the wonderful soundtrack of "Master & Commander". A suggestion to David Garland -- why not follow up Bill McLoughlan & do soundtracks from movies involving water -- but not this Saturday, please, as I'll be out of town!
Also, I firmly believe that John Williams Star Wars theme owes a lot to Glazunov's "Autumn".

Apr. 22 2010 10:14 AM
Bill Powers from Brooklyn

It's a very real possibility that the Liberty Bell March
was a recycled love song of Sousa's. He didn't become a successful composer until he put a marching beat to some of his commercially unsuccessful love songs.

Apr. 22 2010 10:14 AM
Gev Sweeney from The Jesey Shore

Hey! talk about musical recycling: Just heard QXR's airing of Dvorak's In Nature's Realm. Did anybody else catch snatches of "Morning" from Grieg's Peer Gynt and the Rhine motif from Wagner's Das Rheingold???

Apr. 22 2010 09:23 AM
Gev Sweeney from The Jesey Shore

Sorry to be so late to the party, but I only just remembered this: The cereal commercial with the jingle "the only cereal that's shot from guns" was to the quickstep from The 1812 Overture.

Aaaarrrgghh!!!! :D:D:D

Apr. 22 2010 08:40 AM
Sanyi S. from Boro Park, Planet Venus

I would like to see some of these patriotic, or perhaps earthtriotic musical geniuses, to go out and collect cans from garbage and restaurants, fill up a big plastic bag with them, go to the recycling center, claim the money from them, and than donate it to their preferred charities... All should wear blue Jeans, paper Rolling hats, and some other things that can not be described here.... As far as music goes, all of Schoenfeld's so called musical compositions, should be taken off the shelfs, and used only in mental institutions, instead of convulsive electro shock therapy torture.
That would be a good recycling for it.

Apr. 21 2010 09:23 PM
Thomas Bias from Sparta, NJ

A funny bit of trivia concerning the "Habanera" in Bizet's "Carmen": the legend is that Bizet heard the melody being sung by a Spanish laundress in the courtyard below his apartment window in Paris. He thought it was a traditional Spanish song and put it into his opera. It turns out that it was a popular but contemporary Spanish song, and the composer and lyricist were very much alive. They slapped a copyright infringement suit on Bizet! I don't know how the courts decided, however...

Apr. 21 2010 11:25 AM
Thomas Bias from Sparta, NJ

One of J.S. Bach's best-loved melodies opens the E-flat major violin partita #3. He recycled it in the Sinfonia which opens the Cantata "Wir Danken Dir, Gott, Wir Danken Dir" BWV 29. The Sinfonia is a show piece for the organist. It gives me goosebumps to hear it!

Apr. 21 2010 11:17 AM
Parimal Santiago from Astoria, NY

There are several melodies from classical pieces that have been turned into popular songs, for example: The Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor became Stranger in Paradise, Emanuel Chabrier's Espana became Hot Diggidy Dog Diggidy, the Estudiantina Waltz became the Rheingold Beer theme and the second movement of Borodin's string quartet became Baubles, Bangles and Beads. That's recycling!

Apr. 21 2010 07:50 AM
Marshall Turner from Old Bridge, NJ

If I'm not mistaken, most of PDQ Bach's most (fill in the blank) works were actually poorly concealed plagiarisms of his own even lesser efforts.

All kidding aside, I must admit to a genuine OBSESSION with the Tchaikovsky Symphony #5, owning 60 different recordings of it. I was delighted a few years ago to first hear the second movement theme's reincarnation as the song "Moon Love," thus starting yet another of my musical hording binges!

Apr. 21 2010 01:05 AM
John Koster from Glen Rock, New Jersey

Jackie Wilson's "Night" from "Samson et Dalila." He also did "My Empty Arms" from "Pagliacci." Dion DiMucci's "The Wanderer" is the Schmelzlied from Wagner's "Siegfried. "I'm the type of guy who likes to travel round -- they call me the wanderer -- Wotan's cover name in "Siegfried." Disney's "Some Day My Prince Will Come" is Elsa's Dream from "Lohengrin" -- some day my prince will come -- they simpled out the vocal a bit. Shocking Blue -- Dutch Rock group singing in English -- speeded up the Pilgrim's Chorus from "Tannhaeuser."

Apr. 20 2010 03:46 PM
Fred Polvere from Yonkers, NY


Earth Day is Thursday.

Apr. 20 2010 12:25 PM
ed lewis from new jersey

having grown up in the rock era, and first becoming interested in classical music later on, i'm fascinated by the rock artists who recycled classical tunes into pop hits.
jackie wilson's song 'night' is based on a classical piece (help, someone? i'm stuck which one now) and elvis presley's 'it's now or never' is 'o solo mio'.
and, much of borodin's 'prince igor' (including the polovetsian dances) was recycled into 'kismet' for broadway.

Apr. 20 2010 11:04 AM
ed lewis from new jersey

there was a pop tunes hit back in the '70's of 'never gonna fall in love again' which was note-for-note from the adagio of rachmaninoff's 2nd symphony.

Apr. 20 2010 10:24 AM
Arlene Lo

Have you ever seen the movie "Forever Darling"? The opening is right from Bizet's Symphony in C. And "Over the Rainbow" owes much to the Song to the Moon from "Rusalka." More later. So glad you're still the morning host; the day starts wrong when you're not on the air!

Apr. 20 2010 10:04 AM
Bernie Hughes from Bridgewater, NH

Berlioz recycled some of the material from his discarded concert overture, Rob Roy, to Harold in Italy.

Apr. 20 2010 07:08 AM
Gev Sweeney from The Jersey Shore

I forgot this one: Hector Berlioz appears to have reworked the melody that follows Agathe's prayer in Carl Maria von Weber's opera Der Freischutz into the waltz heard in the Ball segment of the Symphonie fantastique. And that waltz melody is itself a variation of the Symphonie's idee fixe.

(And the idea for the idee fixe seems to have been inspired by a passage in Hugo's novel Le Dernier Jour d'un Condamne, The Last Day in the Life of a Condemned Man ... But that's another story! :D )

Apr. 19 2010 05:55 PM
Gev Sweeney from The Jersey Shore

The second movement of Mendelssohn's violin concerto is astonishingly like "I don't know how to love him" in Jesus Christ, Superstar.

In major mode and reversed rhythm, the opening bars of the final chorus of Bach's St. John Passion could be the title chorus of Jesus Christ, Superstar.

Apr. 19 2010 05:47 PM
Rita Altomara

Max Steiner's score for "Gone With The Wind' quotes many American folk themes, but Scarlett's Tara theme always sounded to me like Wagner's Siegfried Idyll.

Apr. 19 2010 03:37 PM
Peter O'Malley from Oakland, New Jersey

Does it count for this exercise to point out when "classical" composers recycle their own stuff? Handel did it shamelessly (witness, e.g., "and the glory of the Lord", from "Messiah", the music of which was lifted wholesale from a prior instrumental piece, as was, I believe, "lift up your heads", from the same oratorio. Mahler "reinvested" his "Songs of a Wayfarer" into his first symphony, and his "totenfeier" was "resurrected" as the first movement of the second symphony, for which he also borrowed from his "das Knaben Wunderhorn."

In the popular music world: two unsung recyclings (or thefts, if you will) by The Doors include "Alabama Song" from Weill's ". . . City of Mahagonny" (used in "Whiskey Bar", adn Albeniz's "Leyend" (from "Asturias", used in "Spanish Caravan" on their third album.

Ian Anderson (flautist/singer/songwriter of Jethro Tull) shamele stole a Bach Bouree for the "Stand Up" album and credited himself as the composer.

Apr. 19 2010 11:02 AM

There's Beethoven's Eroica theme- hammered out in his vaiations for piano and Leonore overtures; "Full Moon and Empty Arms" from Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Concerto; "All By Myself" from his Third; I could keep going but must get back to work.......

Apr. 19 2010 10:35 AM
Alice Gilman from ramsey, nj

How about Greg Lake's Christmas song, which is note for note from the Lt. Keji Suite by Prokofiev

Apr. 19 2010 08:57 AM
SUSAN B ODOUGHERTY from Morristown

Dear Jeff, Since we are stating the obvious. As far as re-cycled music goes can Vivaldi's be beat? (since you're playing Bach) On Friday I went to hear very exciting violinist Lara St. John with Mason Gross @ Rutgers and couldn't resist buying her version of the Four Seasons. She really plays it, along with her young friends of the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra. So glad I didn't overcome my Queen's Catholic School girl parochialism before I heard her play it. Tuscanism: anti-Tuscanism or something like that is alive and well but so is Vivaldi and all this exciting music !!! When does he get canonized??? Sue
Listening to you for over 20 years -- and never disappointed.

Apr. 19 2010 07:50 AM

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