The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Here is a “Fantasy Football and Fugue” to accompany prep, college and especially NFL football this weekend. | September 21, 2013

By Jacob Stockinger

You don’t usually identity football – American football (below), not soccer — with classical music and especially playing the piano.


But now an American musician and instrumentalist from the West Coast has put together a new work called the “Fullback Fugue” that you might find a good accompaniment to football.

And the weekend is the heavy time for prep, college and professional NFL football.

It was posted on the famed classical music radio station WQXR in New York City. But you can also see it on YouTube, where it has garnered almost 25,000 hits since it was posted on Sept. 4.

A musician from Portland, Ore., named Ansel Wallenfang has created “Fantasy Football & Fugue,” a video featuring a fugue built of NFL themes from the four networks that broadcast pro football games (FOX, NBC, CBS, ESPN).

Ansel Wallenfang

He even performs it in full costume — or  should I say, “uniform” — with cleats and jersey, helmet and knuckle tape.

Now, given the football themes, just because the piece uses polyphony in the form of a fugue doesn’t automatically qualify it as classical music – though it does make it a classic curiosity for sure.

The Ear think it sounds rather like bad Rachmaninoff, or maybe a pedantically dry Bach toccata as transcribed by Busoni or some other bass-heavy Romantic piano virtuoso and transcriber.

But I’ll let you decide for yourselves whether the four-minute work is just a gimmick or a genuine, if admittedly derivative, work of classical music and tell me in the COMMENTS section what you think of it and what it sound like.

So go ahead: tackle it -– so to speak.

Here it is, including the composer’s comments about his intent, which he says:

“If football and classical piano were any more similar they would be the same thing.

“Both are fiercely competitive.
Both require violence, elegance, and nerves of steel.
Both demand a lifetime of intense training and discipline.
Both promise fame and glory but usually lead to working with kids.
Both will leave you with some sort of brain trauma.
But both will totally get you laid.

“The Fantasy Football and Fugue isn’t just a bad music pun, it’s a classical mashup of network NFL anthems (CBS, ESPN, FOX, and NBC) that would make Bach and Butkus proud.

Through the lens of classical music and short film, I hope to open these seemingly dissimilar fields to new audiences, sign a multi-million dollar development deal with a major Hollywood studio, become friends with Aaron Rodgers, and not get sued by 4 networks simultaneously.”

Now, it’s kickoff time — so on to the music:

Spread the word — and of course the music — to other football fans.

Remember to tell me how it scores in your playbook.

The Ear wants to hear.


  1. One-week fantasy football leagues for real money with immediate cash payouts. No season-long commitment. Exclusive YouTube offer: use promo code COOLER for a 100% bonus on your first deposit.


    Comment by Alan Craker (@alcraker) — October 31, 2013 @ 4:42 pm

  2. I thought this was very funny. The music was pleasant if not compelling, but the visuals were hilarious: The Xs and Os on the music and on the playlist on the wrist; the squirt of Gatorade that misses, mostly; having cheerleaders (though too much clothing to be authentic NFL), the grass in the face guard and being flattened by another when taking a bow. It was an unexpected, in the context, and funny satire on football, or on classical music, or both.
    Daryl Sherman


    Comment by Daryl Sherman — September 22, 2013 @ 11:27 am

  3. Jacob,
    You are so cleverly adept at being seasonal and making remarkable connections between serious classical music and many varied subjects that I shouldn’t have been surprised at the NFL piano fugue. Actually, I was pleasantly surprised that I liked it more than I expected. The incongruity of a fully uniformed football player at the kybd couldn’t help rivet one’s attention. All in all I liked it. The only drawback for me was the cheerleaders didn’t get enough on-camera time. Thanks for a truly different take on keyboard wizardry.


    Comment by Larry Retzack — September 21, 2013 @ 1:41 am

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