“I didn’t want the usual kids’ TV scoring,” he continued. “Some shows just use one track for an entire season, or a variation of it. I’d worked on ‘Charlie and Lola’ years ago, and they had a couple of musicians who played multiple instruments, and every episode had its own score. So that was the norm for me; it’s definitely not the norm for a lot of shows.”
The music of “Bluey” is a collaborative endeavor, but it is primarily the task of its composer, Joff Bush. Bush, 37, switched from jazz piano to composition as a student at the Queensland Conservatorium, and he later attended the Australian Film Television and Radio School. He leads weekly, hourslong Wednesday sessions, at which Brumm and others talk through the philosophy and the psychology of an episode while he improvises at the piano, before later writing a score. It’s work that Brumm is so proud of that he has given Bush his own character in tribute, a musician called Busker.
Far from every episode of “Bluey” uses classical music, and Bush’s tastes are eclectic. Some of its more than a hundred shows take inspiration from folk, jazz or rock, and almost all of them are then filtered through what Brumm calls the distinctively “jangly” sound that comes from Bush’s collection of old guitars and his habit of ignoring his mistakes. Even when Bush does color with the classical canon, there is a charmingly offbeat oddness to his work, something that helpfully reminds you that no real family could possibly be as agreeable, as forgiving or as functional as the Heelers, however much your children might reason otherwise.
“There’s a humanness to it, I hope,” Bush said.
THERE IS A LONG HISTORY entwining classical music with animation, one that dates back well beyond Elmer Fudd singing “Kill the Wabbit!” to strains of Wagner in “What’s Opera, Doc?” “If cartoons have become associated over time with any one musical genre, it is classical music,” the musicologist Daniel Goldmark writes in his book “Tunes for ’Toons: Music and the Hollywood Cartoon.”
But the Warner Bros. cartoons from the 1930s to the ’50s used classical music as an “endless source of jokes at the expense of concert hall culture,” Goldmark writes. When concert music and opera were more prominent than they are now, many viewers had certain expectations about Romantic-era music — Wagner most of all — that could easily be subverted, and puncturing its pretensions with a cartoon rabbit was anyway inherently funny.
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