Monday, February 24, 2014

Shooby Taylor Rewired

The new Basta album Raymond Scott Rewired features a radical overhaul of the entire Scott catalog by three of the music world's premiere remix artists — The Bran Flakes, Evolution Control Committee, and Go Home Productions. It was released on February 18.

The final track, Scott's iconic "Powerhouse," which was collaboratively layered by the three mixmeisters, features a special guest. The late, legendary outsider scat-master William "Shooby" Taylor, a.k.a. "The Human Horn," takes a few vocal turns throughout the mix. I chronicled Taylor's story over at a website devoted to my Y2K outsider music book and CDs, Songs in the Key of Z. Taylor's idiosyncratic vocal stylings were studio-recorded in the 1980s over commercial LPs by artists like Miles Davis, the Harmonicats, Erroll Garner, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, and Johnny Cash. Needless to say, these artists were not consulted about the collaborations, and all went to their graves none the wiser.

I own the dozen or so Shooby master reels, which contain 94 tracks, many of which I intend to release digitally in the near term. The samples used in "Powerhouse" originated from a series of a cappella recordings by Taylor. Buy the album — or at least the track — to appreciate Shooby in a remarkable setting. You can hear (and buy) four Shooby solo recordings in the iTunes Store: "Stout-Hearted Men," "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing," "Indiana," and "It Gets Better All the Time."

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

REWIRED released

Street date: TODAY. As in, NOW. CD and digital.

Rhythmic redesigns by three extraordinarily talented sonic artists.

Contains real Raymond Scott music, as well as some original sounds. Over 250 RS samples went into the album's 19 tracks.

All the info at

And contrary to some online listings, there is NO vinyl edition. Yet.

Monday, February 17, 2014

"Machines should do the work ..."

"... People should do the thinking."

That proclamation helped make the case for 1967's IBM MT/ST, an early word processing unit heralded in "The Paperwork Explosion," which appears on the Raymond Scott electronica collection, Manhattan Research Inc.

Scott loved technology and embraced most such advances. He might be surprised, yet delighted to know that his collected recorded legacy stored at UMKC's Marr Sound Archive is about to be gobbled up by a giant robot.

Chuck Haddix, director of the Marr Sound Archives, which houses the
Raymond Scott disc & tape collection. Photo courtesy Kansas City Star.

As reported in the Kansas City Star:
Chuck Haddix strolled up and down the aisles between the towering stacks of recordings stored at the Marr Sound Archives, in the ground floor of Miller Nichols Library at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Being surrounded by the treasure-filled shelves — rows and rows of radio broadcasts and music recordings on vinyl, shellac, acetate, metal and glass — seemed to flip a switch in Haddix, and he couldn’t stop talking about the sound locked in the grooves of the preserved discs. 
“During World War II when aluminum was scarce, record discs were made of glass,” Haddix, the archives’ director, said. Aluminum, then later glass, formed the interior of records covered with cellulose nitrate, sometimes known as lacquer, which was grooved with the recording. 
Because glass discs were easily broken, the ones tucked carefully into acid-free jackets on the Marr archives’ shelves are rare. 
But in a few more years, this scene won’t exist. The thousands of discs — one of the largest archived collections of recorded sound in the country — are being relocated to the library’s third floor, where they will be housed in the university’s gargantuan, robotic storage unit.
Here's a short (6 minutes) documentary about the Marr Sound Archives, One Room, 317,000 Records, by Jordan Kerfeld.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Shirley Temple (1928-2014)

We note the passing of legendary actress Shirley Temple yesterday at age 85. Despite her countless starring roles in major motion pictures, she is today best-known as the inventor of the non-alcoholic cocktail. Nonetheless, she has a Raymond Scott connection—or two. The first she knew about. The second, probably not.

A young (age 9) Shirley tap-danced with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson to Raymond Scott's "Toy Trumpet" in the 1937 film Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. (YouTube clip here.) The scene was apparently captured in one continuous take. The Raymond Scott Quintette performed the tune, but do not appear on camera (though they do appear in costume in the above publicity still).

After their breakout radio and recording success in New York in 1937, Raymond and his band were signed to 20th Century-Fox and whisked off to Hollywood. They provided music for and sometimes appeared in a half-dozen or so films with such major stars as Carole Lombard, Fred Allen, Eddie Cantor, and Sonja Henie. Scott reportedly disliked the film industry, which he found shallow. About studio execs he once griped, "They think everything is wonderful." The costumes in the above photo were no doubt another reason for Scott to despise Tinseltown. "We are musicians," he groused, "not comedians."

The Marr Archives, which houses the Raymond Scott collection, includes a disc with an unfinished composition entitled "Shirley's Tune." It dates from the RSQ's Hollywood sojourn, but the unreleased work never made it into the film and its purpose remains a mystery. However, it was sampled by The Bran Flakes on the forthcoming remix album Raymond Scott Rewired, on the track "Shirley's Temple Bells," which you can hear on Soundcloud.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Alarm Will Sound/Dance Heginbotham: Twinned

John Heginbotham's dance work, Manhattan Research, featuring the music of Raymond Scott, premiered in August 2013 at Lincoln Center Out of Doors. Heginbotham returns to the Scott catalog with Twinned, a collaborative performance with music ensemble Alarm Will Sound, which debuts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on February 20, in New York. Heginbotham will use seven short Scott electronic works as transition music during the evening's program, which includes music by Aphex Twin, Tyondai Braxton, and Edgard Varèse.

This is a one-evening performance at the Met's Charles Engelhard Court. Tickets are available here.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Raymond Scott Rewired

UPDATE (Feb 6): Raymond Scott Rewired now has a website.

As a musician, composer, bandleader, and inventor, Raymond Scott was a perfectionist, but not a stylistic purist. His late-1930s six-man "Quintette" crafted novelty jazz that layered ethnic contours and pan-global riffs over a propulsive beat. In the 1940s Scott's antic melodies were adapted in Warner Bros. cartoons because WB music director Carl Stalling found the compositions genetically animated. Scott's mid-century orchestral works were danceable, except when they veered into complex, cerebral concert-jazz. In the 1950s and '60s Scott invented and recorded with electronic instruments. He was a genre-hopper, reflecting a musical restlessness and adventurousness. Scott loved what he did, but craved what came next.

As archivist for the Scott musical estate, I commissioned three remix artists to take apart Scott's catalog and reshape it in a fresh way. The Bran Flakes (Otis Fodder, Montreal), The Evolution Control Committee (TradeMark Gunderson, U.S.), and Go Home Productions (Mark Vidler, U.K.) were ftp'ed hundreds of Scott recordings in various genres, including unreleased material, spanning the 1930s to the 1980s. They were invited to have fun, but keep it rhythmic. Each contributed six audio montages with new titles, and they collaborated on Scott's signature tune, "Powerhouse."

The result is RAYMOND SCOTT REWIRED, produced for the Basta label. The album will be released in North America on February 18. Three tracks can be streamed on Soundcloud.

Over 250 sample sources were used in the construction of these 19 tracks. Those samples were edited, looped, flipped, and stretched; they were tweaked with EQ, pitch-shifted, compressed, and transformed. Disassembling one man's sonic legacy and reassembling the pieces into something different, something worth hearing repeatedly, requires an intuitive gift that approaches songwriting. Scott fans will recognize some passages, but in countless cases, the source recordings have been altered beyond recognition. The composer himself would have difficulty identifying his own works. The reconfigurations were done playfully, but respectfully. Nothing was destroyed. The originals still exist.

The cover art was adapted from an unfinished, untitled, black & white Jim Flora illustration from the 1950s.