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Who Knew? Artist Spotlight on Raymond Scott

by oddbodkins on March 4, 2010

First off, a huge tip of the hat to Ms. Megan for picking up my slack the past few. My damn day job keeps getting in the way lately of the important things in life, like writing a music blog for virtual strangers and reading more comic books. Damn mortgage, real world responsibilities, grumble, grumble. Anyway, i find myself with a few minutes to myself, so you get to read about what i find interesting. And let’s face it, as i am quite possibly the coolest cat in the alley, you’re bound to find it interesting, too. i would not be surprised if you used the following nugget during the next cocktail party you attend, instantly becoming the most interesting person in the room, impressing the hell out of the cutie in the corner and having multiple orgasms with said cutie before the shank of the evening draws near. So you’re welcome.

i like to seek out and learn more about artists my favorite DJs choose to sample. (Blog-on-Blog Love Alert) Case in point, whilst perusing the always excellent Gorilla vs. Bear (impossible to answer until you know which one has ninja training, if you ask me) recently, i read with some interest that up and comer Cibelle had tackled one of my favorite J Dilla beats, Lightworks. What’s more, GvB hipped me to the fact that the original track actually was done by one Raymond Scott. Hell’s bells, thought i, there’s someone i need to know more about, thereby completing half the battle. Turns out Mr. Scott was one groovy mother back in the day. He’s since been sampled or covered by everyone from Soul Coughing to They Might Be Giants, the Kronos Quartet to Cartoon Network.

You can read more particulars at other sites, but what amazed me most wasn’t his later work so much as his earlier. Turns out his entire catalogue essentially became the background music for damn near every Looney Toons and Merrie Melodies cartoon that came out during the 30s, 40s and 50s (not to mention epis of Ren & Stimpy, Duckman, The Simpsons and Animaniacs). Referring to it as “descriptive jazz,” the sound relied less on improvisation and more on tight, busy arrangements. Here’s the kicker, though? Even though he’s “responsible” for nearly every cartoon song you heard growing up, he didn’t write a single one for that task. As put by Wikipedia, “His historical and inadvertent renown as ‘the man who made cartoons swing’ began in 1943 when Scott sold his music publishing to Warner Bros. Carl Stalling, music director for Warner’s Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies, was allowed to adapt anything in the Warner music catalog, and immediately began peppering his scores with Scott quotes, such as in The Great Piggy Bank Robbery.”

That alone would make him too cool for school, but he also pioneered sound engineering techniques and invented space-age sonic instruments. Some people go so far as to call him an early father of electronic music. Know the moog synthesizer? Well, that wasn’t his, but it did come from someone who worked underneath Scott at his Manhattan Research Inc. for a while. He was responsible, however, for the keyboard theremin, chromatic electronic drum generators, and circle generators.

Clearly, this hepster is someone whose grooves are worth getting to know. Here are a couple of tracks to let you know what’s what.
Here’s the previously mentioned J Dilla beat, as employed by one of my fave MCs, DOOM.

And here are a couple of tracks of the man himself, playing with his own band, the Raymond Scott Quintette.

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