Sunday morning music

Time for something a little light-hearted.  Ever heard of American composer Leroy Anderson?  He’s the man who introduced office equipment to the orchestra.

Anderson completed “The Typewriter” on October 9, 1950 in Woodbury, Connecticut. “The Typewriter” received its first performance on September 8, 1953 during a recording Anderson and Boston Pops Orchestra made in New York City for Decca Records. Anderson composed melody for symphony and pops orchestras, William Zinn and Floyd Werle arranged it for string orchestras and wind bands respectively.

Its name refers to the fact that its performance requires a typewriter. Performer uses 3 basic typewriter sounds: the sound of typing, the “ring” of the carriage return (a standard desk bell is used for it), and the sound of the typewriter carriage returning. In some case the sound of the typewriter carriage returning is made by musical gourd, flute, string or other instrument.

The typewriter was modified so that only two keys work to prevent the keys from jamming. According to composer himself and other musicians typewriter part is hard because of typing speed: even professional stenographers can not do it, and only professional drummers have the necessary wrist flexibility.

It has been called one of “the wittiest and most clever pieces in the orchestral repertoire”. Author Steve Metcalf has written that “Despite the almost total disappearance of typewriters in everyday life, the statistics show that “The Typewriter” is still a favorite Anderson item.”

Typewriter is used in composition as percussion instrument from the standpoint of music theory, and typewriter part is performed by percussionist/drummer usually or by conductor rarely.

There’s more at the link.

Here’s “The Typewriter”, performed by Martin Breinschmid with the Strauss Festival Orchestra of Vienna.

Let’s see them do that with a word processor!



  1. Anderson wrote a number of delightful short orchestral pieces mostly, I understand, for the Boston Pops. Many will be familiar to most including Fiddle Faddle, Bugler's Holiday, The Syncopated Clock, and Sleigh Ride. Very enjoyable lighter fare.

  2. I had never realized that was actually performed with a (hacked) typewriter. I'd figured it would be farmed out to 2-3 percussionist/foley specialists to make the noises using other items particularly because the key strikes are very fast and precise and the actual return mechanics of a typewriter would interfere. Certainly that's what Anderson did with Sleigh Ride. The "whip cracks" in Sleigh ride are a special slap board. The local High school always performed Sleigh Ride at Christmas time (Anderson being a local from Danvers, I think, that is one town over) and the highest honor for the percussionists was to run the slap board and bells. Second best was to be the Trombonist who gets to do the Horse neigh at the end :-).

  3. Instantly recognisable to UK radio 4 listeners since it's used as the theme music to the long running "News quiz" comedy spot on Friday evenings! Brilliant and witty bit of musical fun

  4. I well-remember seeing the Jerry Lewis movie, and enjoying his playful run-through of the Typewriter Song – I did not realize/know, at that time (quite some years ago, of course) that the composition was NOT originated primarily for the movie-performance…Fun!

    So many highly-creative and highly-original musical composers…

  5. The Colorado Symphony had a Leroy Anderson concert earlier this year that my girlfriend and I attended. Marvelous music, really. For 'The Typewriter,' the conductor, Christopher Dragon, performed at the typewriter. He had a hotel desk bell next to it for performing the "returns."

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