Songs about songs

Self-referential organ-grinding repertoire, for fans of recursion and believers in meta being betta

Please note:

  • All these street organ arrangements for my modifed Topsy 3 are home-made. Contact me if you want a custom arrangement - whether a modification of a number below or something new - for your own street organ, musical box, barrel piano, or whatever.
  • The MP3s below use Virtual Studio Technology: this is NOT the real sound, and someone needs to sing!
  • Lyrics or translations can be displayed live on a screen, karaoke-style.
Concerto for Barrel Organ and Orchestra / Brass Band / Wind Band / Piano etcBernie Green1957The organ-grinder has at last got a serious classical gig but can't throw off the habits of a lifetime. With bleeding chunks of Tchaikovsky (1st Piano Concerto), Rachmaninov (2nd Piano Concerto), Greig (Piano Concerto), Fučik (Entry of the Gladiators) and Waldteufel (Les Patineurs). Virtual excerpt:
A woman in loveFrank Loesser1955Modified transcription of a broken-down French organ-grinder's version of this Broadway standard.
Vecchia pianolaKatyna Ranieriit1953An old pianola recalls the good times: Vecchia pianola d'un tempo, / d'un tempo passato, / tu mi ricordi il bel tempo, / il bel tempo che fu.
L'âme des poètesCharles Trenetfr1951Homage (with barrel organ allusions) to the poet and painter Max Jacob, who died en route to Auschwitz: Long after the poets have disappeared their songs still walk the streets.
Karussell (Wir reiten auf hölzernen Pferden) / Carousel (We ride on wooden horses)Leo Straus / Martin Romande en1944Translation of a song from the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp. When you get off, will you be able to stand up? Quotes the Wiener Praterleben waltz by fellow-inmate of Death's waiting-room, Siegfried Translateur.
Complainte pour l'orgue de la nouvelle barbarieLouis Aragonfr1940Wartime poem from after his conversion to Marxism: Ceux qu'arrêtèrent les barrages. / Sont revenus en plein midi. / Morts de fatigue et fous de rage.
Valzer dell'organinoBruno Cherubini / C.A. Bixioit1938More organ-grinder nostalgia.
Organ grinder's swingJimmie Lunceforden1930Slow foxtrot
Mackie Messer / Mack the KnifeBertolt Brecht / Kurt Weillde en1928Originally intended for performance with barrel organ.
Mashup: Petrushka + My old man's a dustmanIgor Stravinsky / Lonnie Doneganen1915Portrays on the organ the orchestral imitation by Stravinsky of a barrel organ and a musical box. The video shows the Bolshoi dancing my arrangement. Ends with one of my favourite children's songs.
Video, possibly from another time or person:
My old tunesEdward Elgaren1915From Elgar's incidental music for The Starlight Express, a children's play by Violet Pearn based on the imaginative novel A Prisoner in Fairyland by Algernon Blackwood: My old tunes are rather broken / And they come from far away, / Bring just a little token / Of a long-forgotten day.
Video, possibly from another time or person:
The Organ-Grinder's SerenadeCharles K. Harrisen1897He plays for a small girl in life and death: She's going to die. Please sir, don't cry. / Play her your serenade.
Song of a blind Dutch organ-grinder in IowaAnonnl1884
The Organ GrinderArthur Lloyd / G.W. Hunten1865Some guy's girlfriend, a banjoist, eloped with one. References Babbage and Bass's campaign against organ grinders.
Ostavaysya, brat Vanyukha / Stay well put, oh brother JohnnyRussian folkru en1850ishIn the repertoire of Grigorovich's Petersburg Organ-Grinders
Cease, ye noisy Minstrels, ceaseAnonen1826Splendidly awful poem about street performers.
Complainte de FualdèsMoreau et Catalan / Trad.fr1818In 1817 a judicial official was murdered in Aveyron and hurdy-gurdies or barrel organs were used to drown out his cries.
Marmotte (Das Jahrmarktsfest zu Plundersweilern / Op. 53 no. 7)Goethe / Beethovende en1805Parody of a Savoyard organ grinder and his marmot at a fair: It's many a land I've travelled through, / Avecque la marmotte, / And I always found some thing to chew, / Avecque la marmotte.
The Barrel-OrganCharles Dibdinen1802Parody of a London German organ-grinder, who intersperses his song with other Dibdin songs: De midshipman wid de pretty girl, / He say for a tune are you willing; / So I pull out de stop and I grind and I twirl, / And all to get an odd chilling.
LuchinushkaRussian folkru1800ishIn the repertoire of Grigorovich's Petersburg Organ-Grinders
KatinkaRussian folkru1800ishThe belle of the village was Katie. In the repertoire of Grigorovich's Petersburg Organ-Grinders
Herr BacchusAnonde en1789?Comparisons with Apollo in a drinking song!
Chanson nouvelle sur les cris de Paris / New song on the cries of ParisAnonfr en1738Translated excerpt, featuring organ-grinders and their marmots.
Malbrook s'en va-t-en guerre / Mal'bruk na voynu edetRussian folkru fr1709ishIn the repertoire of Grigorovich's Petersburg Organ-Grinders
Noë per tsanta à la Grand Messa / Noel to be sung at the Great MassTrad.oc en1690?Savoyard carol in Provençal from Bessans in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, early focus of organ-grinders and other ambulants. Features angels singing like organs and marmottes. Abridged translation into English.
Der Kampf des Roraffen mit dem HanenAnon / The Singing Organ-Grinderde en1450?Translated excerpt from a Low German saga in which a puritanical rooster-man drives a fun-loving monkey-man out of Strasbourg Cathedral.

Update: 2023/03/06