A common feature of The Musical is the Patter Song, a light and rapid melody sung by a Motormouth character – less commonly, more than one. This will often take the form of a Long List, resulting in a List Song. Very commonly the song will involve tongue-twisters that test the singer’s ability to pronounce the lyrics clearly, and occasionally the ability is tested even further by raising the tempo of the song little by little until it goes at a frighteningly fast pace.
The Major General Song is a common example.
You will find that as a rule in ev'ry Broadway presentation (Or perhaps the London West End, if that should be the location), That at some point in the drama, all the action turns to stasis― (Because, after all, how many shows make plotting their main basis?) And a Motormouth or three will more or less expressly chatter In a light and rapid melody—more technic'ly, a patter. Since a Long List is a structure that no writer can resist long, You will ofttimes find the Patter overlapping with the List Song. Though it uses terms so recherchés, the singers' tongues are twisted, Each author still will use the trope, as here on this page, thisdid— But because to try explaining what the trope entails quite tramples On our Tropers' little patience, let us on to the examples:
Not that shows are limited to just one patter song apiece. There are two other patter songs in Pirates besides the famous Modern Major Generalsong that are frequently forgotten in that one's shadow. "How beautifully blue the sky," has the entire women's chorus singing the patter part in 2/4 time while the romantic leads sing a duet in 3/4 time. Yes, at the same time.
Other famous Gilbert and Sullivan patter songs include "Love Unrequited" (sometimes titled "The Nightmare Song") from Iolanthe, and "My Name is John Wellington Wells" from The Sorcerer.
Gilbert and Sullivanlampshaded their own notoriety for patter songs (and the difficulty in understanding them when sung, due to their ludicrous speed) with "My eyes are fully open" in Ruddigore, a patter song that includes the lines "This particularly rapid, unintelligible patter / Isn't generally heard, and if it is it doesn't matter!" It was then interpolated in The Pirates of Penzance for a very famous production in 1982.
These songs are also much-parodied. One of the most famous is "The Elements Song" by Tom Lehrer; he rhymed all the chemical element names from the Periodic Table (at least, all the ones that were known at the time; several more have been discovered since *
Lehrer knew this was going to happen - the last words of the song are "These are the only [elements] of which the news has come to Harvard, and there may be many others but they haven't been discahvered."
) and set them to the tune of "I am the very model of a modern major general."
Lehrer also lampshaded it in his multi-In The Style Of rewrite of "Oh My Darling Clementine".
To end on a happy note, one can always count on Gilbert and Sullivan for a rousing finale, full of words and music and signifying... nothing.
Another famous G&S patter song is "I've Got A Little List" from The Mikado, which lists people who would not be missed if they were to be executed. Modern productions of The Mikado invariably rewrite this one to incorporate topical and local events (not to mention Bowdlerize the N-word out). It's harder to rewrite than the Major General Song because of the limited number of rhymes for "list".
The original lyrics practically invite the performer (or producer) to rewrite the lyrics this way:
The task of filling up the blanks I rather leave to you, but it really doesn't matter whom you put upon the list, 'cause they'd none of them be missed, they'd none of them be missed.
And the ending of "I Am So Proud" from the same musical. It begins with each character singing their part, then leads to counterpoint, and totally skips that format at the end with the trio singing a patter.
"Contini Submits" and Necrophorus' part in "Folies Bergeres" from Nine.
"Rock Island" from The Music Man is a rare example involving many people. It also can hardly be considered a song, and it lost its musical accompaniment when the pianist was unavailable. The authors performed it a cappella, and it worked so well that they kept it that way.
Oh, and, of course, "Trouble" from the same score is possibly the most well-known American patter song.
Mr. Graydon's dictation test/interview of Mille in Thoroughly Modern Millie gradually becomes this as they move through the verses. The tune uses "My Eyes Are Fully Open" from Ruddigore. In this case, the music starts off as PAINSTAKINGLY SLOW, and then little by little turns RIDICULOUSLY FAST.
A song that Jim Steinman wrote for the never produced Batman musical was a patter song. It was written for the Joker character, was entitled "Where Does He Get All Those Wonderful Toys?" (Steinman likes long titles) and it goes a little something like this...
Most of the song "The Brain" from the musical version of Young Frankenstein ("His Medulla Oblongata / tells his brain stem that it’s gotta / send an impulse full of data / which creates a lot of pain"… etc).
"A Wolf at the Door" by Radiohead is unusually dark in tone for a Patter Song, but no less rapid-fire (though it has longer-than-usual spaces between the pattery verses). However, the choruses are slightly slower.
"88 Lines about 44 Women" by The Nails.
"Johnny Tulloch", by The Rankin Family, featuring rapid fire lists of people piled in a wagon for a dance in Glencoe, and a story about the dance. Towards the end of the song, there's even scat singing from the women in the group while the male singer lists the names of those in the wagon.
"It's The End of the World as We Know It" by R.E.M..
"Hardware Store" by "Weird Al" Yankovic, which is also partially a List Song when Al starts rattling off things the hardware store in question sells.
It's one song Al refuses to perform live because he doesn't think he can do it again.
"Your Horoscope for Today" isn't fast enough for the whole song to count, but the bridge does, when he says all this in about twenty seconds:
Now you may find it inconceivable or at the Very least a bit unlikely that the relative position Of the planets and the stars could have some special deep significance Or meaning that exclusively applies to only you But let me give you my assurance that these forecasts and predictions Are all based on solid scientific documented evidence So you would have to be some kind of moron not to realize That every single one of them is absolutely true Where was I?
Virginia-based Carbon Leaf revived a traditional song from the U.K. (opinions vary as to whether it's Scottish or Irish) called "Mary Mac". Their official recorded version may be heard here. Be sure to check out a few of their live versions, as well. Note that any tropers who wish to upload their own versions should try to increase the tempo at every verse *and* every repetition of the chorus, to show off just how good they are.
"Goin' Down" by The Monkees is a fast-paced, upbeat song... about a guy having second thoughts after trying to drown himself.
Kirby Krackle's "Who Watches the Watcher," which is used as the theme song of Marvel's online news show "The Watcher," features a major section that rattles off a list of Marvel characters who watch the Watcher.
The song "I've Been Everywhere" was originally written by Geoff Mack and popularized by Lucky Starr (both Australian) and featured a rapid-fire list of Australian cities the author had visited. It was later famously rewritten by Hank Snow to feature cities from the USA and recorded in that form by many, many other artists including Lynn Anderson, Asleep At The Wheel, and Johnny Cash.
Many of Jimmy Durante's songs were these, due to his idosyncratic singing style. Three prime examples are "Inka-dinka-doo", "Chibodee-chobodee-chibodee" and "Durante, The Patron of the Arts."
Barbra Streisand's "Minute Waltz" and "Come to the Supermarket in Old Peking," which is also a List Song of said supermarket's more notable merchandise.
I am the very model of a scientist salarian I've studied species turian, asari, and batarian I'm quite good at genetics (as a subset of biology) because I am an expert (which I know is a tautology) My xenoscience studies range from urban to agrarian I am the very model of a scientist salarian!
"I Really Don't Hate Christmas" from Phineas And Ferb's Christmas Vacation is a song in which Dr. Doofenshmirtz sings about how much it bugs him that he can't work up more than "an intense, burning indifference" towards a holiday he feels obliged, as an evil genius, to hate, while rattling off a number of holidays and other things that he unambiguously hates.
You see, Valentine's is torture, and my birthday is a mess New Year's is a lot of noise, and Arbor Day's a pest Halloween's a horror, but I guess I must confess That I really don't hate Christmas!