Dvorak’s Humoresque is a catchy tune – the romantic composer worked in the last half of the 19th and early 20th centuries and was very famous, with many of his works garnering much attention in his lifetime. He was even well-paid. Of course popularity can sometimes mean imitation, but satirical variation isn’t necessarily what was meant by the old notion that imitation is the highest form of flattery!
At some point during the first half of the 20th century Dvorak’s Humoresque (the famous number 7 from his cycle that I’m currently working on) was set to words – poignant lyrics inspired by the inconveniences and conveniences of train travel. Wikipedia reproduces only one line, “Passengers will please refrain from flushing toilets while the train is standing in the station,” and notes that children in the 1930s seem to have had a lot of fun with it; apparently multiple verses existed. I can’t say I’m horrified that Wikipedia leaves it at that – bawdy spawns bawdy, so I’m sure our modern imaginations can take it from there.
Kids must love Humoresque – the Animaniacs, a popular cartoon that probably had as many young adult followers as children back in its heyday in the mid 1990s (and which, with the equally catchy tune Turkey in the Straw, helped teach many young folks their US State capitols), used a jaunty-jazzy version of Dvorak’s classic as the theme song for its recurring characters Skippy and Slappy. One episode of the show featured the duo extensively, and someone put the credits from that episode on YouTube – coming through loud and clear underneath the Spanish voice-over of some television announcer is Dvorak’s theme:
Romp and humor are indeed a part of appreciating humoresques. Maybe I’ll be able to play it fast enough for the Animaniacs one day.
Thanks for reading.