Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Raymond Scott - Manhattan Research Inc. (2000)
I can't say enough good things about this amazing collection of recordings. Most people know Raymond Scott (if they know him at all) for the large number of his jazz compositions which were licensed for use in Looney Tunes cartoons. Almost everyone has heard "Powerhouse" or "The Toy Trumpet" at some point in their lives, even if they don't know it.
What people don't realize is that Scott was instrumental in the evolution of electronic music, to the point of designing and building prototypes of equipment still used today. He even claims to have built the first sequencer, but the evidence is not conclusive.
This stellar two CD collection compiles the bulk of his electronic output for radio and television commercials from the 1950's-1960's, and what a body of work it is! Tremendously ahead of its time, there are tracks on here that still sound like nothing else, even after all this time. For those of us interested in the plastic pop 50's aesthetic in general, there is a feast for the ears, including wonderfully dated TV announcers, maddeningly catchy radio jingles and delightful voice of Scott's wife, Dorothy Collins. However, it is so much more than a nostalgia trip.
Scott was interesting in music that generated itself with limited input from the composer, and designed a number of machines capable of producing this effect. The result is like the aleatoric John Cage mixed with the electronic beeps of Stockhausen wrapped in a catchy melody and condensed into a thirty-second commercial for Sprite. And as if all that weren't enough, we are also treated to a number of vocalizations from a young Jim Henson.
Truly a priceless artifact and one which the discerning fan of electronic music cannot do without.