Wednesday, February 08, 2012

On this date, Raymond Scott passed away at age 85: THE NEW YORK TIMES obituary

On this date in 1994 Raymond Scott passed away at age 85 — obituary from THE NEW YORK TIMES:

By William Grimes
Published: February 09, 1994

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Raymond Scott, a jazz composer, pianist, band leader and inventor whose music found its way into dozens of Warner Brothers cartoons, died yesterday in the Country Villa Sheraton Nursing Home in North Hills, Calif. He was 85 and lived in Van Nuys, Calif.

The cause was pneumonia, said Irwin Chusid, the director of the Raymond Scott Archives in Hoboken, N.J.

Mr. Scott, whose original name was Harry Warnow, was born in Brooklyn to Russian immigrants. His father was an amateur violinist who owned a music shop. Mr. Scott played piano from an early age but planned to study engineering at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute. His older brother, Mark, a violinist and conductor, steered him to the Institute of Musical Art (later renamed the Juilliard School) by offering to pay his tuition and buying him a Steinway grand piano.

Songs of Quirky Humor

After graduating from the institute in 1931, he was hired as a pianist for the CBS Radio Orchestra, which his brother conducted. When not performing, he composed quirky comic tunes, with evocative musical effects, like "New Year's Eve in a Haunted House," "Dinner Music for a Pack of Hungry Cannibals" and "War Dance for Wooden Indians."

In late 1936, he changed his name to Raymond Scott and formed a six-man jazz group (he insisted on calling it a quintet) that performed his compositions and achieved considerable popularity for two years. In the 1940's Mr. Scott led several of his own orchestras.

In 1943, Carl Stalling, the music director of Warner Brothers, began incorporating Mr. Scott's evocative music into the "Looney Tunes" and "Merrie Melodies" cartoons. His quintet's music from the late 30's is now used as background music for "The Ren and Stimpy Show" on Nickelodeon.

Mr. Scott composed the music for the 1946 Broadway show "Lute Song," composed and performed music for films, and led the band on the television program "Your Hit Parade" from 1950 to 1957.

Early Synthesizer

In the late 1940's, he turned his hand to inventing electronic instruments, such as the Karloff, a machine that imitated sounds like kitchen noises, the sizzle of a frying steak, or a cough. Another of his inventions was the Clavivox, a keyboard instrument that imitated the sound of the human voice. He also created an early version of the synthesizer.

In the 1970's, Berry Gordy Jr., who had seen some of Mr. Scott's electronic instruments, hired him to head the electronic music division of Motown Records. After retiring in 1977, Mr. Scott continued to experiment with electronic instruments.

His best-known compositions were recently released by Columbia on "The Music of Raymond Scott: Reckless Nights and Turkish Twilights."

Mr. Scott's first two marriages, to Pearl Winters and the singer Dorothy Collins, ended in divorce.

He is survived by his third wife, Mitzi; three daughters, Carolyn Makover of Fairfield, Conn., Deborah Studebaker of Los Angeles, and Elizabeth Adams of Watervliet, N.Y.; a son, Stanley, of Mamaroneck, N.Y., and 10 grandchildren.

1 comment:

  1. I remember that day well. 1994 was one of the harshest northeast winters in years—17 snowstorms, and curbside glaciers along the streets of Hoboken for months. Since being outdoors was so brutal, when I received news of Scott's death from his family, I spent two days bunkered in—working the phones, writing bio sketches and culling quotes, sending out faxes, mailing photos and Xeroxes of historical press accounts, and fielding interviews. As a result Scott's passing got a surprising amount of coverage in major print media, as well as TV and radio.