Parents question exam board’s use of well-known porn theme

We hear that some parents have expressed concern on finding Bow-Chicka-Wow-Wow listed in the ABRSM Grade 4 piano exams.

They recognise the title as a tune used in porn films to precede sexual activity and are concerned that children might be able to identify it.

Obviously, one would not expect anyone at ABRSM (or at Slipped Disc) to know that.

 

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  • Living is learning. Now we, SD readers, know about Bow-Chicka-Wow-Wow (it sounds very American) and what this Leitmotiv is about. It seems that the parents in question were better informed.

  • How do these parents know this stuff? Maybe I’m just too old, I haven’t watched porn since I had Seka VHS tapes around 35 years ago. But I do know that we owe many of the advances in web multimedia to porn — Flash in the 90’s, moving gif’s, and most recently video optimization in HTML5. Porn doesn’t get any credit for this, but among geeks it’s common knowledge that the greatest pioneers in web multimedia are from porn and video gaming.

  • Obviously these people live in the countryside and do not clean their chickens nor their cows, resulting in a hue of dirt gently resting upon their respective frames.

    • Who said it was Anglo Saxon? The Associated Board is exported all round the world. Says more about the parents and what they get up to than the Board or the piece of music.

  • I was a bit surprised at the idea that any porn film would bother with a whole melody, let alone enough of them using the same one to be recognisable, and the link given seems to confirm that this is about the -title- of the piece, not about the piece itself / the melodic or harmonic content. If ABRSM simply retitled it “Jazz Study No.4” it would be fine. As far as I can see, it’s the phrase “Bow-Chicka-Wow-Wow” which is in question, not the song.

  • ??? I only hear a nice jazzy piece that has good challenges for a student. This type of repertoire is a welcome addition to the ABRSM and RCM syllabi imho. The title should certainly have been questioned by a US publisher. Does the title have negative connotations in countries where the ABRSM exams are administered? Genuinely curious.

  • Porn is indeed insidious. And how did the parents recognize the little theme? And how would little kids recognize it? Hmmmm

    • Apparently it’s just the title that has connotations in the US. Nothing to do with the piece at all! I’m sure the composer woul be astounded.

      • If it is being played in porn films, the composer will be receiving royalties. He may be rather pleased with the substantial amount of money he is getting (and it would be rather surprising if he didn’t know what was generating the royalties).

  • I don’t know what kind of porn you’re watching, but I’ve watched a LOT of it (gay, straight, and everything in between) and I’ve never heard this theme in one.

  • This is old news, surely — the piece in question is on the 2017–2018 syllabus, which was published in mid-2016. Under overlap provisions for the UK and Ireland, the last day it can be used in an ABRSM grade 4 pianoforte exam **in the UK or Ireland** would be… tomorrow (31st May).

    More perturbing is the ABRSM’s failure to use the correct title for piece A4 in its 2019–2020 grade 4 pianoforte syllabus. Since it is from Bach’s *French* suites, the correct spelling is ‘Menuet’, *not* ‘Minuet’. As András Schiff explained in a Wigmore Hall recital earlier this month when introducing the Partitas, Bach’s choice of language used to entitle a given dance movement is an indication the national style he is referencing. It is most unfortunate that the ABRSM insults the intelligence of pupils and teachers alike by suppressing the correct title of ‘Menuet’.

    Moreover, the listing for piece A4 (2019–2020) is ambiguous as to whether the Trio section is included in the ABRSM’s definition of the piece. At first, I assumed it was included, since a trio is normally considered an integral part of a menuet/minuet/&c. *movement*, and the syllabus describes the piece as the 5th *movement* of the relevant French Suite. I noticed very quickly, however, that the Trio is, from the perspective of a grade 4 candidate, more challenging than the outer sections in certain respects (namely, in the dexterity demanded by the Trio’s three-part texture), making me wonder whether it was within scope. So, I consulted the Faber edition recommended by the ABRSM, and found the Trio section to have been omitted without comment (and before someone replies to say, “you should have used the officially endorsed edition, rather than the far better one by Bärenreiter”, it should be observed that the ABRSM says explicitly that, unless a piece is described as an arrangement, you can use any legal edition).

      • Well, that goes to show that music teachers and *most* parents of children learning the pianoforte are far too civilised to have recognised a contemporary reference to certain acts of moral turpitude. This is the first I have heard of it.

  • What will happen if imaginative film/video producers of products that many parents think will corrupt their children use well known classical themes? Just to remain on the “erotic” topic, it could be Beethoven 5th, Beethoven 9th, Mozart Piano Concerto 21 ….. (you fill in the blanks). Will they forbid their children to listen to them, or worse, to learn to play them?

  • Any parent, myself included, has lots of things to worry about. I think the above wouldn’t be high up the list.

    If my my children started reading about the Watergate Scandal, I would welcome their curiosity and not worry if they researched how where the nick name “Deep Throat” came from.

  • this is definitely a British thing of the Benny Hill generation!

    sorry, as a non-Brit, this tune means nothing to me, pornographic or otherwise

    I can’t even imagine what kind of clown-theme porn could possibly go with this music

    (is there clown-theme porn?)

  • This is too crazy (and fun) to ignore. Looks like an unfortunate case of mistaken identity or, at worst, a song title with a naughty musical association.

    “Boom-Chicka-Wow-Wow” and its variants “Boom-Chicka-Bow-Wow,” “Boom-Chicka-Wah-Wah,” “Wakka-Chikka-Wakka-Chikka”… are generic terms for the funk sound that started showing up on porn tracks in the ’70s. Strong on influence from Isaac Hayes’ “Shaft” theme and the distinctive wah pedal sound of R&B electric guitarist Charles Pitts, but there’s not one specific piece of music.

    British composer Ben Crosland writes music for young piano students. His sweet little piece above appeared in his “Cool Beans! Vol. 2” published in 2013, and he was evidently quite proud of its selection for the ABRSM syllabus in 2016 (https://www.facebook.com/bencroslandpiano/posts/1265432680164301).

    You can’t deny that the not-so-innocently titled “Boom-Chicka-Wow-Wow” has a strong cultural tie to grinding sex, but it’s also hard to deny the obvious kid-appeal of the name. Incidentally, this is not to be confused with “Bow-Chicka-Wow-Wow,” a 2010 hip-hop song by Mike Posner with a better known remix cover by Lil Wayne.

  • That’s the unsexiest porn music I’ve heard today.

    I think the convention that porn would have music came from a late 60s-early 70s US court case that ruled an erotic film from Sweden wasn’t legally “obscene” because, among other things, the music gave it some detectable artistic value.

    That was when porn went from being cheap “stag films” to productions with plots and dialog and characters and… music.

  • Never heard it before and wouldn’t like to hear it again –
    and that piano is awful, especially in the tenor. What about cultivating good taste in the young?

  • It is not even close to the bow-chick-a-wow-wow, which is a bass line, which is frequently used on Saturday Night Live as highly suggestive underscoring. It’s a cute piece, but it’s not very classical, and I question its inclusion. The harp literature chosen by ABRSM is abysmal in taste and expects astonishingly little from students. Is that typical of every instrument?

    • It goes from grade 1 to grade 9. Playing at grade 4 really isn’t a particularly high standard, and nor should it be. It means little more than being able to play a fairly simple tune at the piano reasonably competently.

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