Proof of Music Dominance: The Most Popular Music Box Songs in History

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The most popular music box songs in history might be unknown to most of today’s generation, but unlike the top song list of today, their historical and cultural significance is heavy.

Music boxes have been in existence since the 18th century. This was when the Swiss has decided to introduce it to the public and continued on until the industry’s downfall after the First World War, during The Great Depression, and made even worse with the introduction of the gramophone in the music industry.

However, that does not take away the fact that the music box had its fair share of songs when it dominated the music industry.

In this article, we will go through them one by one, and maybe we will find an interesting plotpoint in one of them.

Claire De Lune by Claude Debussy

This is the most readily recognizable movement in Debussy’s Suite Bergamasque, and it is considered to be unique from the rest of the composition.

What makes the Claire De Lune stand out from the rest of the entire composition is how sprightly when compared to its other movements. Many say that this is an accurate representation of how Debussy was heavily influenced by the circus which, during the 20th century, was a prominent social establishment during the 20th century.

Lara’s Theme by Maurice Jarre

The theme song for an iconic scene in the film adaptation of Doctor Zhivago. Lara’s Theme became one of the most popular music box songs after it was played during a love scene between the Russian doctor-poet, Doctor Zhivago, and the political activist’s wife. This love scene became such a talking point in the movie that it gained enough traction for the composition to win an Academy Award, and like most songs that win, its popularity just exploded especially with a controversial scene attached to it.

The Carousel Waltz by Richard Rodgers

The Carousel Waltz that was composed by Richard Rogers was written for the original production of Carousel where it was used during a scene that was choreographed Agnes de Mille. At that time, it was purely instrumental and that is why transitioning over to the music box was very easy.

The composition was used once more in the movie adaptation during the “Dream Ballet” scene. It was the only dance scene in the entire movie, and since then, The Carousel Waltz became known as The Carousel Tune.

A Town With An Ocean View by Joe Hisashi

A composition that was created for an animated movie entitled Kiki’s Delivery Service by Studio Ghibli, and it is a known fact that almost anything made or is associated with Studio Ghibli always becomes an icon enough that it gains a cult following almost immediately.

The beautifully crafted animation and a well thought storyline accompanied with beautifully composed music makes every element iconic which is why this became one of the most popular music box songs.

Become the Wind in The Cat Returns

Another Studio Ghibli soundtrack in the animated movie The Cat Returns.

The Cat Returns was originally planned to be a 20-minute short video to promote a cat-themed amusement park. However, the voice actors came together and decided to make it a feature length film.

As a result, the film won an Excellence Prize in 2002 Japan Media Arts Festival.

According to Ayano Tsuji, when the song was written, the movie was not yet finished but he got the gist of the story looking at the storyboard and from there, he was inspired by the positive attitude that the main character had and the journey that she had to go through, and this is how one of the most popular music box songs was created.

Toreador’s Song from Carmen by Georges Bizet

It is only fitting that one of the most popular music box songs would be a wedding because in weddings, you do not need words all the time. Sometimes, you just would like that gentle melody to go with the celebration.

However, you would not think that this song by Georges Bizet would fall under the category of wedding songs because the song is about a toast where he describes the excitement of being inside the bullring as he retires from what many consider a sport while trying to impress Carmen.

In addition to trying to impress a girl, he also gives a toast to all his fellow bullfighters in the song as he exits the sport knowing fully well what they go through every day.

Cavalleria Rusticana

This is a composition by Pietro Mascagni. This was based on a text titled Cavalleria Rusticana, and Mascagni was urged to write this composition when a competition for aspiring composers was arranged in their area. He even had someone who based their submission with the same text, but backed out of the competition as soon as he was given an offer to have it performed elsewhere. However, when he saw how well Mascagni’s was doing, he sued Pietro for right. Mascagni won and proceeded to have his piece performed in Rom in front of a very critical crowd, but eventually won them over including Queen Margherita who was in the crowd on the night of its debut.

By winning the entire audience from its very first night, it eventially became one of the most popular music box songs in history.

Bolero by Maurice Ravel

This composition by Maurice Ravel might not have become one of the most popular music box songs if not for Enrique Arbos because prior to conceiving this during his holiday with his friends, he intended to create an orchestra based on Albenzi’s Iberia. However, he abandoned the idea when he found out that the right to an orchestral interpretation was given to Arbos.

The push that urged him to write Bolero came during a holiday vacation. He was supposed to go swim in the pool when he decided to play the piano first. He always tinkered with the thought of creating an orchestra revolved around a single theme and have it grow in the process using harmonic and instrumental ingenuity.

This results in an explosion of music in the later acts of the orchestra.

He played a single note with one finger, and this sparked the beginning of the composition. From this one note, he follows it with a snare drum which goes on for 15 minutes before the entrance of all the other instruments. As a result, an explosion of musical ingenuity was born.

During its debut, one of the spectators screamed during the performance of how a madman Ravel was to which he replied how she understood his work.

An American in Paris

An American in Paris is a musical that became one of the most popular music box songs because it became iconic for one reason – it changed the way Hollywood viewed movie musicals. In fact, it was seismic enough to even win an Academy Award for Best Picture when musicals were not expected to win any kind of award.

In addition, the musical was released during a time when most people, especially Americans, were still grieving after going through the Second World War.

An American in Paris showed a country untouched by war. It became a way for the people to escape realism, even if it was just as long as a feature length film.

However, it was the fact that it ushered in an era of critically acclaimed and award-winning movie musicals decades after it was released that made it one of the most popular music box songs in its age.

Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin

This is Gershwin’s most famous and most recognizable work that it went and became one of the most popular music box songs in his repertoire. Most likely, this is because its opening clarinet glissando has been used by United Airlines in their advertisement since 1980s. This helped the composition blow up in popularity.

However, when Gershwin wrote the composition, he had to finish it five weeks before the concert. Even worse, he only found out about it through his brother, Ira, when he read in the newspaper what Whiteman said about the upcoming concert.

In addition, Gershwin had to finish this while making changes to his new musical that also premiers in the middle of the five week timeframe that he has.

Regardless, the debut of his rushed work was a success and has become worthy of being one of the most popular music box songs of all time. The Rhapsody in Blue incorporates piano and jazz band; an incorporation of American and European incfluence. This is the reason why his brother suggested changing the name to Rhapsody in Blue rather than the orginally planned American Rhapsody.

Symphony No. 9 by Ludwig van Beethoven

Considered to be Beethoven’s greatest composition, Symphony No. 9, which is also known as The Choral Symphony, is critically acclaimed because of how grand its scale is. Even more so, when he added a vocal solo towards the end which featured “Ode to Joy”.

Being called one of the most popular music box songs in history can easily be justified considering that it is one of his most recognizable work.

The composition process of writing one of the most popular music box songs was 10 years in the making.

Beethoven started to conceptualize an orchestral interpretation of Ode to Joy from the first time he heard it. It was an agonizing process, however, as he rejected multiple versions of the theme to a point that when he did finish the composition, he presented a nearly different solo altogether – a cross-section between symphony and oratorio.

Sadly, it can be argued that Beethoven did not hear a single note of the completed version as he slowly became deaf in the process of completing this masterpiece.

La Cumparsita by Gerardo Hernan Matos Rodriguez

Son of the proprietor of the Moulin Rouge, Gerardo was an architecture student when he wrote the composition for a carnival band to play because he did not have the ability to play the composition himself. Once finished, he brought the piece to a cafe where he met a prominent figure in the tango community.

Firpo, seeing the composition that was in front of him and saw a potential masterpiece that could become one of the most popular music box songs, decided to buy the rights to the composition including the authority to adapt and rearrange this. Since then, Firpo worked tirelessly until he created the very tune that most tango dancers move to today.

For a small price of 20 pesos, to be able to claim the right to adapt one of the most popular music box songs in the history of both the dance and music industry is a huge gamble that paid off quite well in Firpo’s favor.

Porgy and Bess by George Gershwin

One of the few most popular music box songs that worked out well for every person that was attached to its name, the opera interpretation of Porgy and Bess was a hit. Not only was it one of the most polarizing, it was, in fact, the most successful American opera back in the 20th century which is why it comes as no surprise that it became one of the most popular music box songs today.

With the music box’s long history, the selection of the most popular music box songs is long. However, because of how far back its history goes, it also does not come as a surprise that the most popular music box songs on the list are either within the classical period such as those during Beethoven’s or Mozart’s time or is more instrumental or orchestral.

Music boxes may have faded into a bygone era. Its industry, dead, and has slipped into novelty, but it cannot be denied that it once dominated the music industry, and having a peek at what the most popular music box songs are proof that the music box had a significant place in the history of both music and humanity.

Are you looking for a music box for yourself or for a present? Find one in our “Music Boxes” category where we write about the most interesting music boxes out there. Most of them are available for purchase on

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