Song of the Day: Aquarium by Camille Saint-Saëns

Missed Deadlines by AquaSixio

Aquarium is the seventh of fourteen movements from The Carnival of the Animals (Le carnaval des animaux), a musical suite by the French Romantic composer Camille Saint-Saëns. Written for private performance by an ad hocensemble of two pianos and other instruments, the work lasts around 25 minutes.

Violin, Viola, Cello, (Strings without double-bass), two pianos, flute, and glass harmonica: This is one of the more musically rich movements. The melody is played by the flute, backed by the strings, on top of tumultuous, glissando-like runs in the piano. The first piano plays a descending ten-on-one ostinato, in the style of the second of Chopin’s études, while the second plays a six-on-one. These figures, plus the occasional glissando from the glass harmonica—often played on celesta or glockenspiel—are evocative of a peaceful, dimly-lit aquarium. According to British music journalist Fritz Spiegl, there is a recording of the movement featuring virtuoso harmonica player Tommy Reilly—apparently he was hired by mistake instead of a player of the glass harmonica. The recording in question is of the Czechoslovak Radio Symphony Orchestra on the Naxos label.

“Aquarium” is featured in the trailers for the 1994 film Only You, the 1974 film The Godfather Part II, the 1995 film Babe, the 2006 film Charlotte’s Web and the 2008 film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and appears to be one of the influences on the main theme in Walt Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and is especially prominent in the cue titled “The West Wing”. It is also the opening theme music to the 1978 film Days of Heaven and the opening and closing theme in the 1992 film documentary, Visions of Light. “Aquarium” is played throughout the Simpsons episode “The Wife Aquatic”, and can be heard in the episode of The Ren and Stimpy Show entitled “The Cat That Laid the Golden Hairball”. The Aquarium also runs repeatedly throughout an episode of How I Met Your Mother in season 5 or 6. It is also heard in the video game Crash Tag Team Racing, and along with “Swan” is part of the soundtrack of the video game Burnout Paradise (2008 edition). It is also used in the film Impressions de France, shown at the French theater in Epcot’s Showcase of Nations (see Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida).
It was utilized by Kylie Minogue as part of the opening sequence of her Aphrodite World Tour.
It’s also traditionally played during red carpet premiers at the Cannes Film Festival, as the cue for the entrance of the cast and crew of the featured film.

Camille Saint-Saëns

Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns (9 October 1835 – 16 December 1921), also known by his nom de plume, Sannois, was a French composer, organist, conductor, and pianist of the Romantic era. He is known especially for The Carnival of the AnimalsDanse macabreSamson and Delilah (Opera), Piano Concerto No. 2, Cello Concerto No. 1, HavanaiseIntroduction and Rondo Capriccioso, and his Symphony No. 3 (Organ Symphony).

image by AquaSixio

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One Response to Song of the Day: Aquarium by Camille Saint-Saëns

  1. James DuSel says:

    It was also featured in “Lyrical Nitrate”, the 1991 collage film by Peter Delpeut. It was then I first heard the movement and immediately fell in love with it.

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