George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue
Since 1980, Rhapsody in Blue has been used by United Airlines in their TV commercials. This work, written in 1924, launched the era of jazz in music history. It premiered in the concert “An Experiment in Modern Music” and became an instant success.
This successful piece only took Gershwin five weeks to compose. He began sketching the work during his train ride from New York to Boston. According to his biography, Gershwin recalled:
“It was on the train, with its steely rhythms, its rattle-ty bang, that is so often so stimulating to a composer- I frequently hear music in the very heart of the noise. And there I suddenly heard, and even saw on paper—the complete construction of the rhapsody, from beginning to end… I heard it as a sort of musical kaleidoscope of America, of our vast melting pot, of our unduplicated national pep, of our metropolitan madness. By the time I reached Boston I had a definite plot of the piece, as distinguished from its actual substance.”
This musical kaleidoscope of America is featured in many of the commercials by United Airlines, including this nostalgic commercial from 1991, which highlights an idealized golden age of immigration to the United States.
Ludwig Van Beethoven’s Für Elise
Beethoven’s Bagatelle No. 25 in A minor for solo piano, famously known as “Für Elise,” was adapted in a Japanese commercial in 1987. Instead of using the original piano version, this Nissan car commercial rearranged it for a rock style played by electric guitar to match the style of the car commercial.
Even though Für Elise is one of Beethoven‘s most famous compositions, it was actually not published during Beethoven’s lifetime. The work was not discovered until 40 years after his death.
J.S. Bach’s Prelude from Cello Suite No.1
The last commercial I am sharing in this article is my favorite of all. Not only does it use one of my favorite cello works, but the commercial is also brilliantly created. The commercial, titled “Sad Things and Happy Things” from American Express, captures different happy and sad faces from various objects to advertise their products.