David and Goliath from Epic to Bathetic – with Monty Python

The story of David and Goliath in 1 Samuel 17 has inspired its share of grand, epic and majestic art and music. Composer Derek Laren’s orchestral piece, ‘David and Goliath’ is one such example.

Have a listen (mp3).

In fact, Derek Laren composed a great number of short but grand orchestral pieces featuring epic biblical themes, such as ‘At The Court Of The Pharoah’, ‘The Exodus From Egypt’, ‘Sound The Trumpets And Battle Action’, ‘The Kings Of Israel’, and ‘Jesus Christ – Miracles’. They’re available, if you can find them, on Episodes From The Bible (DW/LP 3051) and Episodes From The Bible, Vol. 2 (DW/LP 3241).

Monty Python make use of Laren’s ‘David and Goliath’ in their Flying Circus episode, ‘The Attila the Hun Show‘ (Season 2, Episode 7; 10 November 1970). In the opening of the show, Laren’s epic musical score accompanies dramatic footage of the Huns sweeping through ‘civilized’ Europe. This is a fitting match: Giants such as Goliath usually represent the chaotic forces that threaten to destroy our stable lives, which is usually also how old Attila gets figured in histories. Yet, in a typically bathetic move, Monty Python interweave Laren’s grand orchestral score with an accompanying soundtrack from cheesy 1970 sitcom, ‘The Debbie Reynolds Show’:

    … First Voice Over In the second quarter of the fifth century, the Huns became a byword for merciless savagery. Their Khan was the mighty warrior Attila. With his devastating armies he swept across Central Europe.
    Cut to American-living-room-type set. Doorbell rings. Attila the Hun enters the door.
    Attila Oh darling, I’m home.
    Mrs Attila Hello darling. Had a busy day at the office?
    Attila Not at all bad. (playing to camera) Another merciless sweep across Central Europe.
    Canned laughter.
    Mrs Attila I won’t say I’m glad to see you, but boy, am I glad to see you.
    Enormous canned laughter and applause…

Makes it feel so, sort of, insignificant, doesn’t it? A bit like that time a whole load of people started following the Messiah, but he turned out to be just an ordinary guy called ‘Brian’.

* Composer “Derek Laren” is Else Antonia Van Epen-de Groot (born 19 Dec 1919), daughter of Dutch silent film music composer, Hugo de Groot. “De Groot” means “the tall” – essentially a Giant.

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