Sunday, July 26, 2009

Raymond Scott (music)

Official Website

Raymond Scott You probably don't know his name, but you certainly know his music. His most famous piece, Powerhouse, is one of the most familiar pieces of film music ever (especially the second section). 

Scott was something of a pioneer. He came to prominence when jazz was king and he got a job working for the CBS radio house band. There, he formed his own jazz group, the Raymond Scott Quintette** and began following his one idiosyncratic path.  Scott worked with his musicians to compose his music, but once they came up with something he liked, they were supposed to stick with it (a practice jazz purists, who favored improvisation, did not like).  He also pissed off traditionalists by the whimsical names he chose for his music:  " Dinner Music for a Pack of Hungry Cannibals," "Reckless Night on Board an Ocean Liner," "New Year's Eve in a Haunted House."***

Scott was a restless soul and rarely stayed with the same type of music for long periods.  The Quintette only existed from 1936-1939, whereupon he moved on to other forms of music. And, in 1942, he made the decision that made his music ubiquitous:  he sold it all to Carl Stalling at Warner Brothers for use in Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies.

Stalling made the most of the purchase. Scott's music was used in over 100 Warner Brothers cartoons, including many classics. "Powerhouse" became the theme for whenever some sort of factory machine was shown, but many others appeared in the background.  Scott, if known, is often referred to as "the man who made music for cartoons," but that was never his intention.  It was not even a sidelight to his career, just a side effect.

As time moved on, Raymond Scott moved on, too.  He did a Broadway score, TV show music, and popular jazz.  But his main interest after the 40s was in electronic music.  He was a pioneer of the form, a man who influenced and taught many others.  Just about all electronic musicians in the 50s and 60s paid a visit to Scott's labs to learn of his innovative ways of creating music.

Scott faded out from the industry in the 70s, becoming an obscure, forgotten figure (even though Powerhouse has become part of the popular culture).  But he's a name that fans of music and cartoons should cherish.


*And for the same reason.

**Which started out with six members.

***This , of course, has disadvantages. It's hard to remember the names of his songs. And since they were instrumental, that makes it even harder.


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Thomas said...

Scott's music lives on at Mark Mothersbaugh owns the Electronium Scott worked on for Berry Gordy; if you do a youtube search on Electronium you'll see a vid that talks about the restoration effort underway.

Anonymous said...

10/9/11 wrote:
Raymond Scott's music didn't escape the attention of Canadian animator John Kricfalusi either;He was able to use some of Scott's background scores from his old Columbia Records' masters from 1937-1940 in some episodes of "Ren & Stimpy", particularly in the episodes "In The Army", "Sven Hoek", "Mad Dog Hoek","Haunted Hoiuse", & "Dog Show". ("Powerhouse" itself is predominant in "Mad Dog Hoek". This version of Scott's composition was recorded in 1937.)