We’ve done a musical analysis of the tune David Cameron was humming outside Downing Street

9 January 2017, 12:38

david cameron humming musical analysis

Tonight's Full Works Concert with Jane Jones focuses on politicians turned musicians (and vice –versa). Back in September, David Cameron resigned as MP for Witney, and it put us in mind of the time he was heard humming a bright but confusing little tune as he re-entered 10 Downing Street. So we wrote it out and analysed it as best we can.

Back in July, after Britain voted to leave the European Union, then-Prime Minister David Cameron was delivering a brief address about the incoming Conservative Party Leader and his replacement, Theresa May, to the media outside his home. But then he hummed. Let’s have a listen to the Prime Minister’s self-composed opus:

And this is roughly what we think he was humming:

Understandably, the media have jumped on this surprising musical act, but we’ve investigated further.

Let’s start with the time signature. A brisk 3/4, with a crotchet roughly equalling 108 a minute, suggests activity. Positivity, even. But 3/4 is not the most immediately stable of signatures. It’s easy to feel secure in 3/4, but for just a couple of bars it’s disconcerting - especially when starting with an anacrusis.

What does Theresa May's taste in music say about her? >

Harmonically, too, it’s ambivalent, confusing. It’s almost fanfare-like in that confident leap of a fourth from G to C, but it quickly loses confidence when it mirrors the ascent later in the bar, plummeting down to D sharp, forming an awkward implied triad.

And then the percussive spoken ‘Right’, which lands almost perfectly on the first beat of the next bar, is a strange dip into acted-out recitative - demonstrative of a reasonable knowledge of contemporary composition techniques.

There is a theory that the soon-to-be-former PM is actually humming the opening of Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony – of which more here.


So, Wagnerian fanfare, Beethoven-esque harmonic doubt and then a strange contemporary flourish at the end. Does this composition demonstrate the unresolved nature of Cameron’s swift departure from office? Is it perhaps a comment on what might be next for 10 Downing Street?

Other interpretations on this new and invigorating work are welcome. We’re thinking a new fugue arrangement, a cappella choral version, maybe a theme and variations…

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