A contemporary soundtrack for Mad Men?

Mad Men Season 5As production begins on Mad Men season 5 (premiere expected in March 2012) and we are about to be flooded with 1960s stuff this fall (Pan Am on ABC, Banana Republic launching a Mad Men clothing line, …) I just wanted to offer an alternative to the stylized era depicted in the series. Some great music was indeed written and premiered while Don Drapper was hitting on his secretaries…





Season 1: 1960

1960, New York City, the drama unfolds around Don Draper (Jon Hamm), the biggest ad man in the business. As he makes the plays in the boardroom and the bedroom, he struggles to stay a step ahead.

Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima (Tren ofiarom Hiroszimy in Polish) for 52 string instruments, Krzysztof Penderecki

Carré (Square in French) for four orchestras and four choirs (1959–60) by Karlheinz Stockhausen

Dmitri Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 8 in C minor (Op. 110) was written in three days: July 12–14, 1960.

Season 2: 1962

Times are changing for Don Draper and Sterling Cooper. Don and Betty experience turbulence at home, Roger leaves his wife for a younger secretary, and Sterling Cooper heads towards a merger with a British firm.

Francis Poulenc’s Sonata for clarinet and piano (FP 184) dates from 1962 and is one of the last pieces he completed.

“Before there was minimalism there was La Monte Young […]”—Richard Kadrey, Covert Culture Handbook, 1992
La Monte Young – The Second Dream of the High-Tension Line Stepdown Transformer

Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, commissioned for the reconsecration of Coventry Cathedral.


Season 3: 1963

As the influence of PPL’s takeover is felt across Sterling Cooper, Don Draper deals with client issues at work and family concerns at home. Don makes a business acquaintance that could solve all his problems. Betty discovers Don’s secret.

Couleurs de la cité céleste (Colors of the Celestial City), for solo piano and ensemble by Olivier Messiaen

Giacinto Scelsi String Quartet No. 3
Giacinto Scelsi ~ String Quartet No. 3

Benjamin Britten, again, Nocturnal after John Dowland, op. 70, for guitar

Season 4: 1964

Don Draper struggles to stay a step ahead of the rapidly changing times, keeping Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce afloat and dealing with parenting and relationship challenges.

Terry Riley, In C

Henri Dutilleux and his Métaboles

Can you think of any other piece that should have been featured here? Feel free to leave a comment below or tweet me something at @tonalfreak.