When it comes to the Sochi Games, you've got questions, we've got answers. Perplexed by some aspect of the Games? Email us and we'll help you out. Today: fanfare!
Who wrote the Olympic theme songs?
There are actually two different Olympic theme songs, so let's address them separately. First up is the sparse, martial, percussion-and-brass theme song you know so well:
The song is actually entitled "Bugler's Dream," and it was written a decade before it was ever used in an Olympic broadcast. Written by French composer Leo Arnaud in 1958, it's based on an old cavalry call used by Napoleon. ABC began using it for the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble, and with only slight exceptions, it's been used at every Olympics since then.
A couple decades later, in connection with the Los Angeles Games in 1984, American composer John Williams created the Olympic Fanfare:
If that sounds like a big-budget movie theme, well, that's no coincidence: Williams is responsible for creating the most memorable themes in American movie history, including "Star Wars," "Superman," "Raiders of the Lost Ark," "Jaws," "Harry Potter," and many more. Williams himself conducted the debut of the Fanfare at the Opening Ceremony of the 1984 Summer Olympics.
The Fanfare was meant for medal ceremonies and instrumental interludes going into and out of commercial for television broadcast. As Williams' website notes, the Fanfare is "a triad-based ascending motive for full brass adorned by thirty-second notes from trumpets, followed by more vigorous response from trumpets supported by an accented low brass pedal that generates additional excitement by entering on the second half of the fourth beat of each 4/4 measure." Of course it is.
Both themes are now synonymous with the Olympics, and both add a bit of stateliness to any ceremony, birthday party or tailgate at which they're played.