Friday, October 3, 2008

Cartoon Jazz

My one time drummer, David Burks, once turned me onto one of my all time favorite jazz acts, The Raymond Scott Quintet. His main connection to popular culture is through cartoon music. I think Warner must have had a deal with the guy because much of his music was later incorporated into Warner cartoons. But then come to think of it I seem to remember a few early MGM cartoons who used it as well. It was used again in the Ren and Stimpy cartoons from Nickelodeon--particularly in the Wrestling episode. The casual listener will be most familiar with "Powerhouse" which is full of chromaticism. Scott was a product of a very industrial society and it shows in his composition and his general approach to sound. Nowhere is this more evident than in "Powerhouse." It is used most often in cartoons to back mechanical, machinelike behavior. Here is "Powerhouse"Now as good and as strange as that clip is, my favorite Scott footage is "Wardance of the Wooden Indians" because it centers on my favorite musician in the band, Drummer Johnny Williams. Bit of trivia here--he is the father of composer John Williams. I think Johhny Williams is among the most underrated jazz drummers of all time. Love those mounted Indian Tom Toms! Also notice Scott is moving towards using instruments as effects and blocks of sounds to create tension--I am specifically referring to the trumpet part that centers on one prolonged vibrato note. And check the insane clarinet part. When Burks first introduced me to this stuff, he described it as the speed metal of 40's Jazz. Not bad. And after listening to this stuff, think how the Star Wars bar band sounds. Homage to Dad? Here is the Wooden Indians Clip with apologies to any Native Americans who interpret this to be mocking their culture. (Incidentally, I have never understood why the term Native American is preferable to Indian. I mean sure the term comes from Columbus's mistake thinking that he had discovered the sea passage to the East Indies--hence the term Indian. But if that is not PC, why do we still insist on referring to them as "Americans" which is a reference to the obscure Italian 15th Century mapmaker, Amerigo Vespucci, Columbus's mentor? Is that really less insulting? Just sayin') Enough blather, here is the wardance:

Is that not awesome?

Raymond Scott later became a pioneer in Electronic music developing early oscillators and other instruments that ultimately evolved into the synthesizer. Once he even created a set of albums in the fifties that were entirely electronic and marketed to young space-age parents as electronic lullabies for babies.

Here is the cover of Volume one. I think it got more complex for older babies.

He actually later collaborated with Robert Moog to create some of the very earliest synthesizers. Also carved out a niche for himself in the advertizing world adding electronic sounds to early radio and TV advertising

Here are a few pics of Raymond Scott and amazing early synthesizers he personally created.

All those machines create music like this:


update: I have some new Raymond Scott to share!! Here is a nice lengthy trailer for a documentary about Ray.

And here is another great Raymond Scott clip (again check out Johnny Williams on the drums):

And here is a later clip of electronic music created by Raymond Scott for Nescafe:And Finally another supremely surreal commercial by Ray:

1 comment:

Fosco Gamgee Whitfurrows said...

Freaking phenomenal, my brutha.