Monday, August 30, 2010

Part 2: Full Circle

A couple of weeks ago, I reported that an engineer, David Brown, was developing a replica of Raymond Scott's sequencer invention, The Circle Machine. Mr. Brown reports progress:

I mounted the base plate on a panel along with the 16 lamp rheostats and three control jacks. I built a separate desktop wood enclosure with an external power supply. I removed three of the vanes and the counterbalance weights to lighten the armature. This was rather a fun project and my first using a stepper motor. I built it for fun since I thought it would be visually interesting. I didn't intend for this to be a precision sequencer nor a faithful recreation of the Raymond Scott Circle Machine. However I am pleased with the results as it works well to generate interesting sequences and is fun to watch.

New video & details: here

Monday, August 16, 2010

Full Circle

Retired Tektronix engineering executive David Brown is constructing a working replica of Raymond Scott's sequencer invention, The Circle Machine. “I thought it would be fun to build something with motors and lamps," Mr. Brown says. "The only information I have is the picture on the Raymond Scott site. I used a Hammond vibrato scanner base as the base for the Circle Machine and mounted it on a plate with 16 potentiometers around it. I only have 8 lamps installed but I have it playing an octave scale. I’m not sure how practical it is but it’s kind of fun to watch."

See & hear Brown's replica in action: here

Thursday, August 05, 2010

What A Character

A few years ago David Garland, host of WNYC's SPINNING ON AIR, wrote to me:

I'm about a third of the way into Michael Chabon's [Pulitzer Prize winning novel], The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (published by Random House), and to my surprise Raymond Scott shows up as a character in the story. The novel is set in New York City, and at this point in the story it's 1940. They've just gone to a party for Salvador Dali:

"Most of the names were unfamiliar to Joe, but he did recognize Raymond Scott, a composer who had recently hit it big with a series of whimsical, cacophonous, breakneck pseudo-jazz pop tunes. Just the other day, when Joe stopped at Hippodrome Radio, they had been playing his new record, 'Yesterthoughts,' over the store PA. Scott was feeding a steady diet of Louis Armstrong platters to the portable RCA while explaining what he had meant when he referred to Satchmo as, 'the Einstein of the blues.' As the notes fluttered out of the fabric-covered loudspeaker, he would point at them, as if to illustrate what he was saying, and even tried to snatch at one with his hands. He kept turning the volume up, the better to compete with the less important conversations taking place around him."

A few pages later, Dali, who was wearing an old-fashioned diving suit, begins to suffocate, and Raymond Scott tries to remove Dali's metal helmet. In that scene, when someone suggests they remove Dali's helmet, Scott shouts, "What the f*ck do you think I'm trying to do?!" That seems uncharacteristic to me, but what the f*ck do I know about how much d*mn cursing Raymond did? So far, I'm enjoying the book a lot.
—David Garland

Another email I received today:

Hi: I am a librarian in San Bruno, CA and I have a patron who is trying to find the sound/music for something he thinks Raymond Scott wrote. Michael Chabon, in his "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay," writes, "The doorbell played its weird tune, Raymond Scott's shortest composition, 'Fanfare for the Fuller Brush Man.'" Does such a composition exist and if yes, can I get the sheet music or do you know where the patron could hear it?
 Thank you in advance.

Although Scott released a tune titled "Yesterthoughts" in 1940, the events depicted in this novel, as well as the composition "Fanfare for the Fuller Brush Man," are creations from Chabon's imagination. Scott did, however, invent an electronic musical doorbell.

• Order the book from: Amazon