SANTA MONICA, Calif.—When the award-winning comedy series Curb Your Enthusiasm returns to HBO this fall it will be accompanied by one of the most recognizable theme songs in television. Written by Italian composer Luciano Michelini and licensed to the show by Killer Tracks, Frolic has a jaunty rhythm and an irresistibly lighthearted charm that is perfectly in sync with the show’s offbeat, whimsical humor.
According to editor and music supervisor Steve Rasch, Curb Your Enthusiasm creator and star Larry David happened to hear the track in a bank commercial a few years before the show debuted. “Larry liked it and had his producer, Laura Streicher, track it down,” recalls Rasch. “It became the sound of the show. It’s like something you’d hear from the pit orchestra at a circus with tubas, mandolins and clarinets.”
Michelini originally wrote Frolic for the Italian movie La Bellissima Estate. The soundtrack for the movie was owned by RCA Italy, which, in turn, sold the rights to Killer Tracks. After settling on Frolic as the show’s theme song, Rasch went back to Killer Tracks in search of similar music and was presented with a 70 CD collection of Italian cinema music from the former RCA catalog.
Since then, that CD collection has provided the bulk of the incidental music for the show. Rasch estimates that 70-percent of the show’s music cues across its full 9-year run derive from that original block of music provided by Killer Tracks. “It’s work by Italian composers from the ‘60s and ‘70s and it all has that circus sound. It’s upbeat and goofy,” he explains. “It’s all analog, and some of it is mono, but it’s well-recorded and has the right sound.”
Music is a critically important component of the show. Rasch explains that Curb Your Enthusiasm is unscripted. Larry David prepares detailed outlines for each episode, but the cast improvises the dialogue. Rasch and his fellow editors then go through a meticulous process of culling the best moments and paring it down to 30-minute episodes. Music helps smooth transitions and punctuate jokes.
“The show represents some pretty intense scenarios,” says Rasch. “There’s a lot of arguing and a lot of stress. The music functions like a laugh track. It’s a cue for the audience to view what’s happening through a comedian’s eyes. It’s a funny look at heavy topics. The music lightens the mood.”
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