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The Amen Break of Snobbery

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This article originally appeared on Ethan Hein’s blog.

Garrett Shumann posted on Twitter about Luigi Boccherini‘s “String Quintet in E major, Op 11 No 5,” being one of the great one-hit wonders of the Western canon.

I didn’t recognize the title and composer, but the music itself was instantly familiar to me as a film score cliche signifying classiness. When I posted that observation, Christopher Hunter responded:

“I knew the tune on the first note and never knew who it came from, it’s the amen break of snobbery.”

That phrase is so precisely correct. The Boccherini String Quintet tends to be found wherever snobbery is found, and yet remains hidden in plain sight.

Here’s my favorite Boccherini String Quintet usage.

Lee Rosevere linked to The Idiot’s Guide To Classical Music, a compilation of just this kind of cliche. I love these kinds of lists. Where else could you find out the composer and title of the music from a commercial for fancy chocolate?

This one is iconic too, it’s been used in many episodes of SpongeBob:

And this one, which I probably first heard in Bugs Bunny:

It’s weird to think that something like this even has a composer, but of course it does:

Oh no, the factory is out of control! Modern life is too crazy!

Oh hey, my Nokia phone is ringing!

I know it’s terrible to treat the Western art canon as a library of film, TV, and sound design clichés. But clichés are fun.

What else you got? Post your finds in the comments below!

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Ethan Hein

Ethan Hein is a Doctoral Fellow in Music Education at New York University. He teaches music technology, production and education at NYU and Montclair State University. With the NYU Music Experience Design Lab, Ethan has taken a leadership role in the creation of new technologies for learning and expression, most notably the Groove Pizza. He is the instructor of the free Soundfly course series called Theory for Producers. He maintains a widely-followed and influential blog, and has written for various publications, including Slate, Quartz, and NewMusicBox.