Circus music

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Fillmore's "The Circus Bee" performed by the United States Marine Corps Band

Fillmore's "Rolling Thunder" performed by the Ceremonial Brass of the United States Air Force.

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Circus music (also known as carnival music) is any sort of music that is played to accompany a circus, and also music written that emulates its general style. The most common type of circus music is the circus march, or screamer, which are marches played at very fast tempos.[1] Popular music would also often get arranged for the circus band, as well as waltzes, foxtrots and other dances.

The two best known circus marches are "Entrance of the Gladiators" by Julius Fučík (known to some as Thunder and Blazes, or Entry of the Gladiators), and "Barnum and Bailey's Favorite" by Karl King. Also, "Sobre las Olas", or "Over the Waves", is a popular waltz used during trapeze shows. Mistakenly thought to be a waltz by Strauss, it was written by Mexican composer Juventino Rosas. Many other composers were well known for writing screamers, among them Fred Jewell and Henry Fillmore. One piece, however, that was never normally played was John Philip Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever". Instead, it was used in emergencies, such as animals getting loose, to help signify to workers that something was wrong.[1]

Music that imitates or evokes the sound of the circus has also been written, often showing up in film scores, some dedicated to the subject and some not. Jerry Goldsmith famously wrote a theme for the movie Gremlins in such a style, which influenced the film makers to an extent.[2]

Other bands and musicians who employ circus music in their work include Danny Elfman, Tom Waits, Legendary Shack Shakers and Kaizers Orchestra. The music genre Dark Cabaret is heavily based on elements from circus music and from burlesque and vaudeville influences . Popular artists within the genre include The Tiger Lillies and Circus Contraption. Punk Cabaret is also influenced from circus music. Artists include The Dresden Dolls, Amanda Palmer, and Emilie Autumn.


  1. ^ a b Under the Big Top
  2. ^ DVD commentary; Steven Spielberg presents Gremlins. Special edition. Warner Home Video, 2002.