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AMC's Mad Men' is More Than Just Brilliant Television, Chopin and Beethoven Are Important Musical Devices for the Show's Demographic

By Ian Holubiak i.holubiak@classicalite.com on Apr 30, 2014 03:22 AM EDT

Mad Men has its merits with lavish costume designs, witty dialogue and writing and exceptional intertextuality with the time period its set it.

The attention paid to the music serves massive importance, largely focused on its pop songs like 'Tomorrow Never Knows' from The Beatles, which wasn't any inexpensive feat.

However, the use of classical music in the series is often over-looked.

In its season five premiere, a young violinist performs Chopin and, after being rejected by Juilliard, is pushed to the budding hippie movement (that's far from being celebrated).

As per NPR, classical music juxtaposed with the countercultural movement of the time doesn't scream originality, as the device is a popular tool for writers.

However, the use of the Chopin melody, the E-Flat Major Nocturne, Op. 9, No. 2, was more than just a minor detail. Its execution seemed almost perfectly calculated.

In the episode "Signal 30," Beethoven got a nice shout out via Pete Campbell's stereo and Ken Cosgrove's original composition "The Man With the Miniature Orchestra."

As NPR states:

The Ninth is not just any symphony. While it's a piece any non-musician and hi-fi loving junior audiophile would put on to impress guests, its scherzo was the closing music to The Huntley-Brinkley Report, the NBC Nightly News of the Mad Men era. And "Signal 30" features an extremely smart use of the scherzo in underscoring - as the music transitions from the stormy main theme to the pastoral, jolly trio, Don strolls into the party wearing a loud plaid jacket and a forced smile. The episode also uses a dripping faucet that sounds like a ticking clock - or a metronome.

Thus, Mad Men truly serves a higher echelon of viewership, with the show often littered in obscure literary allusions and what seem like metafictional devices.

But, as the time period progresses, thus the music, fashion and dialogue, even, will have to change substantially.

As finding the visual from the show is hard, here's Chopin's Nocturne for your listening pleasure.

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TagsMad Men, Chopin, Beethoven, NPR, E-Flat Major Nocturne, Op. 9, No. 2, Signal 30, The Man with the Miniature Orchestra, Pete Campbell, Ken Cosgrove

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