Grieg's music in popular culture

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The music of the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg has been used extensively in media, music education, and popular music.

Music education[edit]

For the 150th anniversary of his birth, Norway organized a huge celebration, "Grieg in the Schools", which included programs for children from pre-school to secondary school in 1993. The programs were repeated in 1996 in Germany, and called "Grieg in der Schule", in which over a thousand students participated. There were Grieg observances in 39 countries, from Mexico to Moscow.[1]

Further celebrations of Grieg and his music were held in 2007, the 100th anniversary of his death. Bosnia and Herzegovina held a large-scale celebration, featuring Peer Gynt and the Piano Concerto in a public concert for children and adults.[2][3] The July 2007 Australasian Piano Pedagogy Conference featured Grieg's works.[4]

The Bergen University College, and later, the University of Bergen both named their tertiary music departments "Griegakademiet", in honor of Grieg.[5]

References to Grieg's music in popular culture[edit]

Peer Gynt[edit]

In 1960 Duke Ellington recorded a jazz interpretation of "Peer Gynt" in his Swinging Suites by Edward E. and Edward G. album. A struggle ensued in Norway between the Grieg Foundation and its supporters, who found the recordings offensive to Norwegian culture, and Norwegian supporters of Ellington. Ellington's versions were withdrawn from distribution in the country until 1967, when Grieg's copyrights expired.[6]

"In the Hall of the Mountain King"[edit]


Possibly, the first jazz rendition of "In the hall of the mountain king" was made by Alvino Rey (and His Orchestra) in 1941. Rey recorded also a version of "Anitra's Dance". American Bass Trombonist George Roberts recorded a jazz rendition of the song, playing the melody on his bass trombone. It appeared in his 1959 album "Meet Mr. Roberts" as the first song, entitled "In The Hall of the Mountain King".[7]

Nero & the Gladiators had a No. 48 hit on the British charts in 1961.[8]

A heavy rock version of the song appears on the album "Big Brother & the Holding Company: Live in San Francisco 1966" by the American rock band Big Brother and the Holding Company, although it was actually recorded at television station KQED in San Francisco on April 25, 1967.[9]

British rock band The Who recorded another performance of "Hall of the Mountain King" in 1967. This version went unreleased until 1995, when it appeared as a bonus track on a CD reissue of The Who Sell Out.[10][11][12] Tucson Weekly has called this cover a "Who-freakout arrangement"[13] One reviewer calls The Who's version the "weirdest of these" covers on the CD, and says it is "a rendition of the corresponding extract from Grieg's Peer Gynt suite ... [yet] it hardly sounds like Grieg here, anyway..." Another says that "the main function of the composition is to evoke thoughts of (naturally) King Crimson and (unnaturally) Pink Floyd, because in parts it sounds exactly like 'Interstellar Overdrive'."[14]

Electric Light Orchestra recorded a 6:37 long version of "In the Hall of the Mountain King" in 1973 as the concluding selection of their album On the Third Day and performed it with Great Balls of Fire in 1974 for their live album The Night the Light Went On in Long Beach.

Rick Wakeman's symphonic rock poem Journey to the Centre of the Earth, 1974, features the Hall of the Mountain King theme, near the end of the piece.

Progressive metal band Savatage's song "Prelude to Madness" is an arrangement of Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King". It is included on their 1985 album Hall of the Mountain King which also includes a song of the same name which, however, is an original composition.[15]

The music of Foetus's song "Enter the Exterminator" from his 1985 album Nail is based on Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King".[16]

Dutch symphonic metal band Epica performed a rendition of "In the Hall of the Mountain King" with the Extended Reményi Ede Chamber Orchestra at the Miskolc Opera Festival for their 2009 live album The Classical Conspiracy.[17]

British rock band Marillion included the main melody of "In the Hall of the Mountain King" in a live version of "Margaret" found on the b-side of the Garden Party single, and also on the b-sides compilation album B'Sides Themselves. The song was recorded at Edinburgh Playhouse, April 7, 1983. [18][self-published source]

K-Pop band SF9 include the main melody of "In the Hall of the Mountain King" in their song "Jungle Game" from the album "Burning Sensation".[19]

Power metal/Progressive metal band Kamelot based a song called 'Forever' on the melody of Solveigs' Song. This is also mentioned by their now previous singer Roy Khan, who is also Norwegian, on their live DVD 'One Cold Winters Night' [20]

In late October 2017, Black MIDI creator "Sir Spork" created a Black MIDI rendition of "In the Hall of the Mountain King" containing 2.9 Million notes and amassing over 15 million views on Youtube [21]

Jpop duo W uses the main melody of "In the Hall of the Mountain King" during the verses and musical interlude of their song "Choi Waru Devil", the lead track from their 2019 EP of the same name.[22]

Film and TV[edit]

D. W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation (1915) used the song to build up to the Union attack on Atlanta. The song had by that time already been used in film scores, whether for Ibsen's play or other works; yet the popularity of Griffith's film helped to establish it in American popular imagination.[23][24]

"In the Hall of the Mountain King" plays a major plot point in Fritz Lang's early sound film M. Peter Lorre's character of child killer Hans Beckert whistles the tune whenever he is overcome with the urge to commit murder. However, Lorre himself could not whistle – it is actually Lang who is heard.[25] The film was one of the first to use a leitmotif, associating "In the Hall of the Mountain King" with the Lorre character. Later in the film, the mere sound of the song lets the audience know that he is nearby, off-screen. This association of a musical theme with a particular character or situation, a technique borrowed from opera, became a staple in film.[23][26]

In the 1993 animated series Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, "In the Hall of the Mountain King" is sampled as part of the show's opening theme alongside "Flight of the Bumblebee" and the theme from the original Sonic the Hedgehog video game. The tune also serves as a leitmotif for antagonists Scratch and Grounder.

In 2004, Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers had "Petey's King of France," sung to the tune.

The song was used to title an episode of Mad Men, where the protagonist Donald Draper flashes back to the time spent with Anna Draper, the widow of his superior officer against whom he had committed identity theft. When Dick, young Don, is in California he pays her a visit where she is teaching a piano lesson. The boy is playing Grieg's piece, to which Dick comments the song is scary.

An electronic cover was arranged, programmed and performed by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for David Fincher's 2010 film The Social Network. The music plays over a scene of competitive rowing, as the Winklevoss twins lose to another team. This loss, as well as several other events, lead the twins to decide to take legal action against Mark Zuckerberg for Facebook.

In Johnny English Reborn (2011) in the "cooking scene" Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson) cooks the dinner for Kate Sumner (Rosamund Pike) in the rhythm of the "In The Hall of the Mountain King".

The song is used during the early mining scene in "The Snow Queen 2" (2014), to accompany Orm's accidents with overloaded mining cars. Orm makes up lyrics for the first few bars: “There once lived a lucky troll who was loved by every soul.”

"Hair Up" is a trap version of this song used in Trolls (film).

"Knight of Cups" uses "Solveig's Song" and "Death of Aase" on multiple occasions.

Video games[edit]

The running music for the seminal ZX Spectrum games Manic Miner and Jet Set Willy

In the final challenge of the 2016 video game The Witness, the song is utilized to make the player feel a sense of urgency.[original research?]

The 1983 video game Mountain King uses the theme as background music throughout.

Anitra's Dance is featured in Quest for Glory: Shadows of Darkness released in 1993.

It is later given an 8-bit remix with Beethoven's 9th Symphony, the fourth movement in particular, in Just Dance 2018. with the title In the Hall of the Pixel King. It was supposed to be in its predecessor, Just Dance 2017, but was scrapped for unknown reasons

This song is used as the opening music for the Texas Instruments TI-99/4A version of Hunt the Wumpus.

The song is part of the soundtrack of Forza Horizon 4, as part of the in-game classical music station Timeless FM.

A metal version of this song (covered by the band Ridiculon) is used as part of the soundtrack for the 2017 Nicalis' game "The End is Nigh".

Other uses[edit]

In the safety demonstration animation that states the illegality of smoking in the CRH (China Railway High-Speed) the "In the Hall of the Mountain King" from the Peer Gynt Suite No. 1 is applied as the background music to accompany a smoker's behaviors before attempting smoking and while smoking, followed by the emergency brake of the train and finally the crying smoker under arrest by 2 policemen.

British theme park Alton Towers uses the piece in TV commercials, and as a soundtrack for various locations around the park.

The "Cellos" PlainTalk voice speaks tuned to a variation on In the Hall of the Mountain King.


Many people first heard "Morning" and "In the Hall of the Mountain King" when it was used in Warner Brothers cartoons featured in The Bugs Bunny Show in the 60s.[citation needed]

Jay and the Americans recorded a rock and roll cover song known as Dawning, in 1962.

"Morning" was later used in the 1973 film Soylent Green as the music selected by Edward G. Robinson's character to listen to as he lay dying.

In 1998, The Simpsons episode "Bart Carny" paid homage to its use in older cartoons in a sequence where a cheeseburger unwraps in the early sunlight.[27]

Later in the same year, German musical project In-Mood feat. Juliette sampled the theme for their song "Ocean of Light."[28][29]

It is also used as the opening theme music in PopCap Games' video game Peggle, accompanying the animation of a rising sun.

"Death of Åse"[edit]

The main melody of "The Death of Åse" is used in the song "Thokk" by the black metal band Pensées Nocturnes and in the song "Dolls and Ravens" by the doom metal band Consummatum Est. "Solveigs' Song," and "The Death of Åse" were both included in the soundtrack of Terrence Malick's 2015 film "Knight of Cups." "The Death of Åse" also plays intermittently in the video game "Sid Meier's Civilization V" when the user is playing as one of the European civilizations.

Piano Sonata[edit]

The motion picture The First Legion used Grieg's Piano Sonata in E minor as a way to introduce a Jesuit priest's prayer. The priest, Father Fulton, plays the sonata as a way of connecting himself to the other Jesuits, when "forced to revise their standards of belief after experiencing first a makeshift and later a 'real' miracle."[30]

"Brothers, Sing On!"[edit]

The folk song "Brothers, Sing On!" ( EG 170 - in the original Norwegian "Sangerhilsen") was written by Grieg with lyrics by Sigv. Skavlan, with English language lyrics by Herbert Dalmas and/or Howard McKinney.[31][32] The Mohawk-Hudson Male Chorus Association (MHMCA) presented a massed concert, with 90 male singers, at the historic Troy Savings Bank Music Hall on May 3, 2008, entitled "Brothers, Sing On!", with the titular song, which was also adopted as the organization's theme song in 1974.[33] They had previously performed the same song in the same venue in 2002.[34]

The University of Northern Iowa has gone so far as to name its web site and to start every concert with this song:

What if all men, everywhere in the world, could get together and sing? If there was just one song that could be sung, in a true spirit of peace and brotherhood, "Brothers, Sing On!" by Edvard Grieg would be it. "Brothers, Sing On!" is the timeless gem in many men’s choral repertoire. It has been called the ‘international anthem’ of men’s choral singing. For nearly 50 years, "Brothers, Sing On!" has been the mainstay of our Glee Club’s repertoire. We have sung it from the top of Mount Vesuvius; a glacier in the Tyrolean Alps; the ancient castles and underground slate mines of Wales; the deck of a ship on the tossing Irish Sea; the Coliseum in Rome, and a great many places in between. We salute the many excellent men’s choirs throughout the world, especially the collegiate men’s glee clubs, those ‘wandering troubadours’ whom we hope will inspire future generations of singers.

— the Brothers, Sing On! web site, [31]

Other pieces[edit]

The musical Song of Norway, based very loosely on Grieg's life and using his music, was created in 1944 by Robert Wright and George Forrest and a film version was released in 1970. The 1957 made-for-TV movie musical The Pied Piper of Hamelin uses Grieg's music almost exclusively, with "In the Hall of the Mountain King" being the melody that the Piper (Van Johnson) plays to rid the town of rats.

Eric Morecambe famously played "all the right notes, just not necessarily in the right order" of Grieg's Piano Concerto in a sketch on the 1971 Morecambe and Wise Christmas special that featured Andre Previn.

The opening theme of the first movement of Grieg's Piano Concerto in A Minor was used by Jimmy Wisner, recording under the name "Kokomo", in the song "Asia Minor", a top-ten pop hit in the U.S. in 1961.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ MNC Web Site, Edvard Grieg Remembered
  2. ^ Grieg07 - English - Home
  3. ^ Norveska Official web site for Bosnia-Herzegovina
  4. ^ Australasian Piano Pedagogy Conference web site
  5. ^ "Griegakademiets historie". Griegakademiet (in Norwegian). Retrieved 26 July 2010.
  6. ^ Cooke, Mervyn and David Horn (2003) The Cambridge Companion to Jazz
  7. ^ "George Roberts – Meet Mr. Roberts – George Roberts And His Big Bass Trombone (Vinyl, LP, Album) at Discogs". Discogs. Retrieved 6 June 2017.
  8. ^ Brown, Tony, Jon Kutner & Neil Warwick, The Complete Book of the British Charts: Singles and Albums, Omnibus Press, London, 2002, p. 712
  9. ^ AllMusic Review by Richie Unterberger
  10. ^ The Who dot Net web site Archived 2007-09-29 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ 200th Anniversary celebration of Grieg
  12. ^ NNdB web site
  13. ^ Tucson Weekly
  14. ^ Only Solitaire
  15. ^ Phillips, Fred (28 September 2015). "Savatage, "Prelude to Madness / Hall of the Mountain King" (1987): One Track Mind". Something Else! Reviews. Retrieved 23 June 2016.
  16. ^ Duxbury, Janell R. (2000). "Rockin' the Classics and Classicizin' the Rock: A Selectively Annotated Discography: Second Supplement". Retrieved 10 August 2016.
  17. ^ "Epica To Release 'The Classical Conspiracy' Double Live Album". Roadrunner Records. 12 March 2009. Archived from the original on 6 April 2009. Retrieved 14 March 2009.
  18. ^ Duxbury, Janell R. (5 February 2001). Rockin' the Classics and Classicizin' the Rock: A Selectively Annotated Discography: Second Supplement. Xlibris. p. 144. Retrieved 7 March 2017.
  19. ^ Share+Music (2017-02-05), SF9 (에스에프나인) - Jungle Game, retrieved 2017-04-27
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^ "W-ChoiWaruDevil - video dailymotion". Dailymotion. Retrieved 2019-04-08.
  23. ^ a b Powrie, Phil and Robynn Jeananne Stilwell (2006) Changing Tunes: The Use of Pre-existing Music in Film
  24. ^ Barbara Saltzman, "Griffith's 'Birth of a Nation' Reborn on Lumivision Disc," Los Angeles Times, June 21, 1991. Found at LA Times archives. Accessed May 23, 2011.
  25. ^ Falkenberg, Paul (2004). "Classroom Tapes — M". The Criterion Collection. Retrieved 2007-08-08.
  26. ^ Costantini, Gustavo. "Leitmotif revisited". Filmsound. Retrieved 2006-05-10.
  27. ^ "The Simpsons (Classic): "Bart Carny"". Retrieved 20 Sep 2015.
  28. ^ "In-Mood; Juliette - Musik /". SWR 3 (in German). August 7, 2007. Retrieved 1 May 2016.
  29. ^ "In-Mood feat. Juliette - Ocean Of Light". Retrieved 1 May 2016.
  30. ^ Lutz Koepnick, The Dark Mirror: German Cinema between Hitler and Hollywood, Weimar and Now: German Cultural Criticism, 32, found at U.C. Press web site.
  31. ^ a b University of Northern Iowa Varsity Men’s Glee Club (Brothers Sing On!) official web site. Accessed May 5, 2008.
  32. ^ Choralnet ideas web site. Accessed May 5, 2008.
  33. ^ "In 1974 'Brothers, Sing On!,' by Edvard Grieg, was adopted as the organization's theme song." See Conductor's Club web site. Accessed May 5, 2008.
  34. ^ BH Singing web site Archived 2009-04-15 at the Wayback Machine. Accessed May 5, 2008.