Thursday, October 29, 2009

jungle drums, slapped bass & squeaky toys

Stu Brown's Raymond Scott Project CD draws celebratory ink from the UK's Mojo magazine. It's also "Disc of the Day" (Nov 2) at The Jazz Breakfast.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

epic bash

"Hitting things with a stick is the cornerstone of civilization," wrote P.J. O'Rourke many years ago. Percussionist-composer Jude Traxler offers a frenetic contribution to civilization with his drum solo on Scott's "Powerhouse," performed as part of the Manhattan School of Music's weekly Power Concerts in December 2008. The camerawork's a bit fuzzy on the YT clip, so we decided to forego a screen grab. Lots of fun to watch, though. Thanks to MSM trumpeter Andrew Kozar for coordinating the Scott repertoire, which included "Dinner Music for a Pack of Hungry Cannibals," "Tobacco Auctioneer," and "The Penguin."

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Shhh... John Cage & Raymond Scott

More than a dozen Raymond Scott tunes were immortalized in Bugs Bunny classics, but there's one Scott composition that was never heard in cartoons. In fact, it was never heard.

"The antics of a 13-piece orchestra made audiences fidget and giggle," TIME magazine reported more than a decade before the premiere of John Cage's famous silent composition, 4'33". "The band was going through all the motions: the swart, longish-haired leader led away; the brasses, the saxophones, the clarinets made a great show of fingering and blowing. This, explained leader Raymond Scott, was silent music."

Scott's 1941 audience didn't appreciate the stunt, however. According to Cage, his 1952 presentation also fell on deaf ears: "They missed the point. There’s no such thing as silence. What they thought was silence, because they didn’t know how to listen, was full of accidental sounds."

Raymond conducted other sensory deprivation experiments during this period. The same TIME article claimed he had learned to drive a car with his eyes closed, and that he could "take one look at a parking space, back into it without taking another; memorize a turn the first time, drive it shut-eyed thereafter. Raymond Scott still drives his band open-eyed — with results which, when audible, sound neat and crisp."

Sadly, few recordings of Scott's "Silent Music" survive, and it remains unreleased to this day. However, to any musician brave enough to attempt it we will provide charts.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Pasadena Creative Music

The mission of the Pasadena Creative Music series is to showcase many of "the most fun and imaginative performing artists in Los Angeles." And on Monday, October 12th at 6pm, the second half of the program will "explore the music of the legendary composer and inventor Raymond Scott, whose music is widly known through its placement in many Looney Tunes and Merry Melodies favorites, despite the fact that he never actually scored for cartoons. The Los Angeles Raymond Scott Sextet will play a set of these exciting pieces in their original jazz concert context."

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The Dought Abides

''I had a big thing for Raymond Scott loops. Hell, I could probably eke out a living producing hiphop records, using nothing but breakbeats and Raymond Scott compositions.''

Today Mike Doughty dropped his new album, SAD MAN HAPPY MAN. There's no connection to Raymond Scott on this record, but we wanna plug it anyway. Irwin & I are big fans of Doughty's music & his 1990s band Soul Coughing — & not just because they released three tracks with Raymond Scott samples.

"Bus To Beelzebub," from their first album RUBY VROOM, was based on adapted loops from Scott's "Powerhouse," as heard in numerous Bugs Bunny cartoons. "Uh, Zoom Zip," from the same album, uses samples from the RS Quintette's recording of "The Toy Trumpet" that are so distorted they went unidentified for years. By contrast, the loops from the RSQ's "The Penguin" heard throughout SC's "Disseminated," on their 2nd album, IRRESISTIBLE BLISS, are easy to spot. I love the track & think it's one of the coolest uses of Scott samples by any artist, but Doughty is ambivalent. "The lyrics are not my proudest," he explained for "Don’t get me wrong, I’m pro-nonsense, but at the time we were sequencing the record I dismissed the song as 'harmelodic vaudeville.' Democracy won out, the song made the record, and it ended up being the only damn song on the record that Robert Christgau liked when he reviewed it in Spin."

Doughty is currently working on a new batch of loop-based electronic music, but don't expect more Raymond Scott samples. "After the first record, my bandmates were increasingly unreceptive to loops I brought in from other people's music. Maybe they were right, we woulda been poorer, giving our money away to other composers," he said at "I could only use the majority of the loops live — gone are the days when Warner Bros. would write a fat check to pay off the Raymond Scott estate and Toots Hibbert for their unsuspecting contributions! Even rappers are too smart to use samples these days."

Monday, October 05, 2009

Raymond Scott Project site updated

Stu Brown, whose UK Raymond Scott Project we've written about previously, has updated his website, including new press shots and a video clip from the Glasgow Jazz Fest. He intends to add more video over the next few days.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

The thrill of a lifetime ...

... a long lifetime (91 years), one of the highlights of which has to be seeing yourself portrayed—however briefly—onstage in a New York theater. That was the honor accorded Mrs. Raymond (Mitzi) Scott on Sunday September 20, after she flew in from the west coast to attend a matinee of Powerhouse, the FringeNYC Festival biographic musical fantasia about her late husband. The cast was told Mitzi would be attending one of the four "Fringe Encore" (extended run) performances, but were not told which—to prevent an added layer of stage jitters (particularly for Clare McNulty, who offered a very sympathetic portrayal of Mitzi). The highly animated performance zoomed along smoothly, and Mitzi adored the show, after which she was introduced to the house and presented by the cast with a bouquet of roses.

The snapshot above was taken outside the Actors' Playhouse on Seventh Avenue after the final curtain. Left to right: Josh Luxenberg (writer); Jon Levin (director and concept); Hanley Smith (Dorothy Collins); Clare McNulty; Eric Wright (Mel, Puppet Designer and Builder); Mitzi Scott; Ben Dziuba (Chuck); Deborah Radloff (Pearl Zimney); Erik Lochtefeld (Raymond Scott); and Jesse Garrison (Carl).

Following the initial August run, the cast was awarded the FringeNYC 2009 Excellence Award for Outstanding Ensemble. The show was one of 20 (out of over 200) that earned a September slot in the Encore series. The next step—if the theatrical gods show favor—is for Powerhouse to open Off-Broadway. Here's hoping. A larger venue and a more accommodating budget would magnify the show's abundant charms.