“GULLIVER’S TRAVELS” AND MUSIC
Gulliver’s Travels was written by Jonathan Swift around
1700 and, although this was not its original intention, has
become largely a classic for children. Unsurprisingly, then,
music has become associated therewith and this brief paper aims
to recall some of it.
The earliest and probably the most fascinating came from Georg
Philipp Telemann and his Gulliver Suite (1728) for two violins
without continuo. After an opening Intrada, we have a “Chaconne
of the Lilliputians”, in 3/32 time with very short note
values (it is a short movement, indeed) and, in complete contrast,
a ponderous “Gigue of the Brobdingnags” in the possibly
unique time signature of 1/24. “Daydreams of the Laputians”
are contrasted with livelier passages representing the Flappers’
encouragement to the Laputians to look after themselves; finally
the two violins are set against each other with sustained sequences
for the noble Houyhnhnms for one and wild ones for the Yahoos.
Gulliver’s Travels has made the musical stage. At the
Mermaid Theatre a show so titled for the Christmas season (15
December 1975 to 17 January 1976) had music – primarily
songs – and lyrics by Mike d’Abo who also took the
part of Gulliver. The year before and also at the Mermaid, there
was a straight play on the same subject with incidental music
(I do not know the composer or any details thereof).
Gulliver has figured in films, too, one American (1939, with
incidental music by Victor Young), the other British (1976,
Michel Legrand). There have doubtless been TV and radio adaptations,
but as yet I have no information on their music, if any.
Philip L. Scowcroft
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Philip Scowcroft Collection