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.


  1. I heard an excerpt of this piece in a Daffy Duck cartoon. It was right before a stick of dynamite went off, after Daffy muttered, "Yikes."

  2. You make a good point, Bleu. Although this obscure Scott composition was never heard, it may, ironically, be his most omnipresent.

  3. i'd be interested to see the charts if possible & also you mention that there are existing recordings of the piece & i've been researching for awhile but haven't been able to find any - can you let me know who might have these ?