Quotation in Rufus Wainwright

January 26, 2006

The tradition of American composers quoting music by other composers goes back to the Bohemian-born early American composer, Anthony Philip Heinrich (1781 – 1861), known as “the Beethoven of Louisville, who quoted “Yankee Doodle” in a number of his compositions. The notorious Charles Ives (1874 – 1955) quoted band tunes, hymns, patriotic songs, and other found musical objects throughout his career. After seven decades of atonal exploration, George Crumb (b.1929) dared to return to tonality through mysterious quotes of Bach and Chopin played through a chromatic musical mist. Rufus Wainwright has tried his hand at this technique. I’ve identified a number of quotations in his music and ask your help in identifying more.

“Vicious World” quotes “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
“Oh What a World” quotes “Bolero” by Maurice Ravel.
“I Don’t know what it is” quotes the theme music from “Three’s Company.”
“Sally Ann” quotes the alternate version of “Away in a Manger.”
“Ups and Downs” quotes “Boris Godounov” by Modest Mussorgsky.
“The Money Song” evokes Francis Poulenc’s “Mouvement Perpetuelles.”

What else?


Courtesy of Early American History Auctions.


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