Thursday, September 25, 2008

Ebola Music Radio Special


At EgoPlum.com: ''NOW PLAYING! A very special edition of the Ebola Music Radio show celebrating 100 years of Mad Genius composer/inventor Raymond Scott. The show includes super-rare tracks, amazing covers, and an interview with RaymondScott.com founder and CD producer Jeff E. Winner.'' Radio host Ego Plum is the composer of the musical score for Nickelodeon's newest animated TV series, the strange and hilariously bleak, "MAKING FIENDS." >>> Listen to the radio special: here.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Let 'em hear cake!


Above: Clavivox cake by Sarah Albu, Montreal
Below: Bakery birthday cake ordered by Ego Plum, Los Angeles

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The First 100 Years


Today marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Raymond Scott. To commemorate the centennial, we commissioned a portrait of our revered musical control freak by renowned caricaturist (and Scott fan) Drew Friedman. The image depicts a beaming RS at the controls in a spaghetti-tangle of mic cords while his legendary 1937-39 Quintette runs through the ninety-sixth take of "Screwball Music for a Pack of Weary Sidemen."

You can buy a signed, limited edition fine art print of the painting at RaymondScott.com. We're offering 30 numbered & titled giclée prints signed by the artist in a large (16" x 15") wall display format. The launch price is $300 for each of the first ten prints, after which the price will increase as the edition sells out.

Strange as it may seem considering the popularity and stature of Mr. Friedman's imagery, this is the first time his work is being offered in a signed limited edition.
P.S.: The tightest comprehensive bio of Scott ever — 650 words — posted at BoingBoing.com.

P.P.S.: Scott concert Sunday afternoon, Sept. 14 at West Point.

Directory Assistance


Today marks the Raymond Scott centennial. Our guy was born Harry Warnow on Sept. 10, 1908, in Brooklyn. We celebrate and pay tribute—but twenty years ago, such an anniversary observance was unlikely.

I've been a free-form DJ at WFMU radio since 1975. We're allowed to spin anything, without regard to genre. In the mid-1980s, I began airing a mix cassette of 78 rpm disc transfers of the Raymond Scott Quintette. The group's idiosyncratic titles (e.g., "War Dance for Wooden Indians," "New Year's Eve in a Haunted House," "Dinner Music for a Pack of Hungry Cannibals") were composed by the band's namesake leader. I didn't know anything about Mr. Scott, but soon discovered he was an intriguing figure of once-gargantuan stature whose name had slipped into the dustbin of music history, his accomplishments forgotten or unrecognized, a prime "Where Are They Now?" candidate. Only later did I learn that Scott, besides composing nutty titles, was a quasi-jazz pianist, orchestra leader, pioneering audio engineer, inventor of electronic music machines, and all-around eccentric control freak.

The cassette was compiled around 1985 by a friend in L.A., artist Byron Werner. Byron is a vinyl obsessive who coined the phrase "Space Age Bachelor Pad Music" to describe a broad genre of pleasant, sophisticated instrumental pop of the 1950s and '60s (e.g., Esquivel, Martin Denny, The Three Suns). By the 1980s, these relics were long out of vogue and reviled by hipsters. It was music for geeks. Like me. Raymond Scott was not part of this genre. He was something else. When Werner gave me the cassette, he explained, "You might recognize this music from Bugs Bunny cartoons." Though I had never heard these recordings and recognized neither the titles nor the composer, there was something curiously familiar about the music. It sounded like quintessential cartoon soundtrack fodder of the 1930s: frantic, wacky, edgy, and …. well, animated, with a layer of surface noise and compressed fidelity that affirmed its vintage.

I began airing tracks from the tape—and invariably the phones lit up, especially when I played a wild recording called "Powerhouse." Listeners wanted to know the title because they'd heard it before but didn't know where. I said it was from cartoons, which usually elicited the reply, "Where can I get it?" Since the recording was out of print, I dubbed copies of the cassette for dozens of listeners, friends, and fellow staffers. I attempted some research — pre-www: in libraries — about this Scott character but turned up little. He was an occasional footnote in jazz chronicles, and what few encyclopedic thumbnails I discovered mentioned nothing about cartoons.

In 1988 Steve Schneider published That's All Folks!—the first major monograph about classic Warner animation. The book included a full page about WB music director Carl Stalling's penchant for the "merry melodies" of Scott, who was, it turned out, in no way connected with cartoons. He didn't even watch them. Stalling, through a publisher's license, had adapted a dozen Scott titles in hundreds of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck cartoons in the 1940s and '50s. Scott's music thus became genetically encoded in every young earthling—few of whom knew the source.

My passion for Scott's music, fueled by the injustice that such a major figure could or should be overlooked, eventually led me to Scott himself. Once again Byron Werner was the conduit. He found Scott in, of all places, the Los Angeles telephone directory, living in Van Nuys. He called and talked to Scott's wife Mitzi, who explained that Raymond, his speech impaired by a 1987 stroke, could not carry on a conversation. She explained that Scott could no longer work and that their finances were desperate.

Werner passed along Scott's number, and after making initial contact with Mitzi in January 1991, I agreed to officially represent her husband's music and revive his deserving legacy. Ironically, this was the second catalytic instance of Scott's name being plucked out of a phonebook. Around 1934, Harry Warnow sought a musical nom-de-plume to differentiate himself from his then-famous older brother, orchestra conductor Mark Warnow. Harry told interviewers he selected the name "Raymond Scott" out of the Manhattan phone directory. He thought the moniker had "good rhythm."

Harry, Raymond, Mr. Scott—whatever. Happy one hundredth birthday. Let's get going on the next hundred years.

Happy 100th Birthday: 1908-2008

Jeff Winner, who co-produced Manhattan Research, Inc., offers his 100th birthday toast: 

Much of my understanding of the 20th century came from Raymond Scott. Over the past 15 years I've studied his fascinating career and life in great detail; this gave me a greater awareness of the achievements of the past 100 years. The 1900s saw dramatic leaps of human advancement and technological invention. Scott was inspired by the optimistic spirit of this progress, and became a major player in both artistic and technical ways.

On September 9, 1908, Orville Wright made the first experimental flight to catch air for an hour. The following day, coincidentally, Raymond Scott was born. Scott's musical journey started as a kid with a player piano in his dad's music shop. In 1949 Scott wrote music that foresaw "the first experimental rocket express to the moon." Twenty years later, NASA did it. While aviators went from Kitty Hawk to the moon, Scott went from a player piano to synthesizers, sequencers, and homemade drum machines. They were both striving for a celebration on the planet Mars.

Happy birthday, Raymond, and thank you for the history lessons. I'm certain Earthlings will love your work even more in another 100 years. Especially if they're listening during a commute to the moon.

Monday, September 01, 2008

The perils of gluttony


Sweet Wishes, a short film by Mark Ryden and Marion Peck. Donuts and cheesecake in the prop budget. Mops, too. Soundtrack: "And the Dish Ran Away with the Spoon," by RS + The Secret 7, chipmunked vocals by Dorothy Collins.