The Typewriter

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"The Typewriter"
Composition by Leroy Anderson and His "Pops" Concert Orchestra
WrittenOctober 9, 1950
ReleasedOctober, 1953
RecordedSeptember 8, 1953
GenreLight music
LabelDecca Records
Composer(s)Leroy Anderson

"The Typewriter" is a short composition of light music by American composer Leroy Anderson, which features an actual typewriter as a percussion instrument.


Anderson completed "The Typewriter" on October 9, 1950 in Woodbury, Connecticut.[1] "The Typewriter" received its first performance on September 8, 1953 during a recording Anderson and the Boston Pops Orchestra made in New York City for Decca Records.[2] Anderson composed the melody for symphony and pops orchestras; William Zinn and Floyd Werle arranged it for string orchestras and wind bands respectively.[3]

Bell structure

Its name refers to the fact that its performance requires a typewriter, while using three basic typewriter sounds: the sound of typing, the "ring" of the carriage return indicating an approaching end-of-line (a standard desk bell is used for it), and the sound of the typewriter’s carriage returning. In some cases the sound of the typewriter’s carriage returning is made by a musical gourd,[4] flute, string or other instrument.

The typewriter was modified so that only two keys work to prevent the keys from jamming. According to the composer himself, as well as other musicians, the typewriter part is difficult because of how fast the typing speed is: even professional stenographers cannot do it, and only professional drummers have the necessary wrist flexibility.[5]

It has been called one of "the wittiest and most clever pieces in the orchestral repertoire".[6] Author Steve Metcalf has written that "Despite the almost total disappearance of typewriters in everyday life, the statistics show that "The Typewriter" is still a favorite Anderson item."[7]

The typewriter is considered a percussion instrument,[8] and the typewriter part is usually performed by a percussionist or drummer, or rarely by the conductor.[9][5]

Cultural references[edit]

The piece was featured in the Jerry Lewis film Who's Minding the Store (1963) and in the musical montage that opens Lewis' 1980 film Hardly Working, although his first recorded performance was on a January 1954 episode of The Colgate Comedy Hour. The Radio 4 satirical programme The News Quiz has adopted the tune as its theme song. The original MS-DOS version of Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing! played a portion of the piece on startup. For several decades the tune has been the opening theme for Israel Radio's weekly news journal, which is broadcast on its "Network B" ("Reshet Bet") every Saturday morning. It was also featured as a title theme for the German comedy TV series Büro, Büro, and in Adam Elliot's 2009 Australian film Mary and Max. It was integrated into the Animaniacs cartoon segment "Temporary Insanity" (Season 1, episode 6, 1993), mimed by Yakko Warner as being typed on a nonexistent typewriter. The piece also appears in Christmas with the Kranks (2004), the Amazon series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (season 1, episode 4) and FX series Better Things (season 4, episode 9).

The Russian name of the piece, "Соло на пишущей машинке" (Solo na pishushchey mashinke, Solo on typewriter) was used as the title of a touch typing self-teaching manual by Vladimir Shakhidzhanyan (1991) who later adapted the title for his touch keyboarding computer primer "Соло на клавиатуре" (Solo na klaviature, Solo on keyboard) and for the notebooks "Соло на ундервуде" (Solo na undervude, Solo on underwood, 1980) and "Соло на IBM" (Solo na IBM, Solo on IBM, 1990) by Sergei Dovlatov.

British Drag Queen Her Imperial Highness Regina Fong aka Reg Bundy used this song regularly in her performance, This consisted of numerous tape recordings of popular cultural references which were edited together and lip synced to. The audience would also join in with certain sections, During the Typewriter sequence miming the typing and slapping the carriage back to the start position and shouting "Oi"

Used in Warehouse 13 Season 2 Episode 10 "Where and When".

Michael Kamen used this composition as the musical basis for "the Office" theme for the Ministry of Information in Terry Gilliam's Brazil.[10] When Mrs. Buttle's cheque for her dead husband is filed in the Ministry of Information a tune is played on typewriters interwoven with orchestral music to symbolize a stuffy bureaucratic atmosphere. The same music is also used later in the film when Sam joins the Ministry of Information and is then met with Mr. Warrenn and his many yes-men.


  1. ^ "Leroy Anderson: A Bio-Bibliography", Praeger 2004, Chapter 2 – "Works", Pages 25–81.
  2. ^ "Leroy Anderson: A Bio-Bibliography", Praeger 2004, Appendix H – "Recording Sessions and Musicians", page 411
  3. ^ Published Music // Leroy Anderson's official website
  4. ^ Evening at Pops with Leroy Anderson, transcript of episode of Evening at Pops broadcast in May 1972, at PBS, retrieved June 23, 2012
  5. ^ a b Leroy Anderson: Master of the Miniature, at National Public Radio, by Pat Dowell, published June 27, 2008, retrieved June 23, 2012
  6. ^ "Compact Discoveries: #13, Leroy Anderson", by Fred Flaxman, broadcast 2005, transcript posted 2009, retrieved June 23, 2012
  7. ^ "Leroy Anderson: A Bio-Bibliography", Praeger 2004, Chapter 1 – "Biography", Page 15
  8. ^ Thomas D Rossing, Science of Percussion Instruments // World Scientific Pub Co Inc, 2000
  9. ^ New Year with Vladimir Spivakov // Russia-K, December 31, 2012
  10. ^

External links[edit]