A lot of interesting things popped up this show, not the least of which was Raymond Scott (1908-1994) and his machine music. Several years ago Scott’s music received a massive wave of critical acclaim and renewed interest when Basta Records released a 2xCD (3x vinyl) compilation called Manhattan Research Inc. An entire book could be written about Scott’s career (that compilation comes with a 144 page booklet), but the contrast between Scott as inventor and pioneer of electronic music and Scott as composer and big-band orchestra leader is what strikes me the most. He graduated from the Juilliard School of Music in 1931 and consequently played piano for the CBS Radio band. He eventually formed a six-piece band (called the Quintette), for which he rarely wrote a composition. Instead he preferred to hum melodies and tap out rhythms to his band members in order to instruct their performance. Combining his ability to “write songs in his head” with his knowledge of recording equipment, Scott would often take recorded versions of his music into the studio in order to cut, edit, an dub the recordings into a final mix.
Between 1937 and 1939 Scott and his Quintette recorded a number of famous pieces, including “Powerhouse,” (check out this link for a great video of the Quintette performing this song and this link for a Walt Disney arrangement of the tune that almost landed Disney in hot water) a number that would be used over and over again in many cartoons. Scott also hosted Your Hit Parade and, according to Wikipedia’s article on the man, use the money he made on that show to finance his Manhattan Research Inc. project. There he would invent the world’s first automated synthesizer/sequencer (the Electronium), come into contact with Bob Moog, attract the interest of Motown Records, and eventually drive himself into debt and poor health. Sounds like a sad way to end a story, but it doesn’t exactly end there. Thanks to Basta Records, groups like the Kronos Quartet and Steroid Maximus (J.G. Thirlwell of Foetus), and the Cartoon Network, Scott’s music continues to receive plenty of attention. 2008 marks 100 years since the birth of Raymond Scott (the day is the 10th of September if you want to mark your calendars) and you can count on a Scott feature popping up on Laughter sometime this year. In addition to that, there’s a documentary about Scott being made. You can read about that documentary at the official site for the movie and you can see a preview here. If you want more details, just visit the above links and search through those websites; the Wikipedia article is a good place to start as is Scott’s homepage. By combining the information there with the powers of Youtube, I was able to find Scott’s music and influence popping up all over the place:
Rush – “La Villa Strangiato” (if you can’t listen to the whole thing, skip to 7:50 or so)
They Might Be Giants – “Rhythm Section Want Ad” (it’s a home-made video, but not that bad…)
Animaniacs – “Toy Shop Terror” (I love this cartoon)
Raymond Scott – “War Dance of the Wooden Indians” (great video, well shot, and features tap-dancing people dressed rather atrociously in Native American head-dresses. On the other hand the drummer in the Quintette gets a lot of love in this video and to good effect.)
Raymond Scott – “Cindy Electronium” (another home-made video, but full of some interesting artwork)
Video of Scott’s Electronium, courtesy of Devo founder Mark Motherbaugh.
Ed Kuepper also caught my attention this week. I don’t have the time this week to write up a full feature on him, so here are a few websites to point you in the direction of his various projects.
Hope you all enjoyed the more rock/rhythm/melody oriented show this week. For those of you that didn’t, worry not as the more abstract stuff will return next week.
Thanks for stopping by and enjoy.
01. Kraftwerk “Europe Endless” from Trans-Europe Express (1977) on Capitol
02. Afrika Bambaataa & Soul Sonic Force “Planet Rock” from Planet Rock 12″ (1982) on Tommy Boy
03. Coldcut “Everything Is Under Control (Theory 0.1)” from Everything is Under Control (2005) on Ninja Tune
04. Pole “Weit” from 2 (1998) on Kiff / Pias Germany
05. Raymond Scott “The Rhythm Modulator” from Manhattan Research Inc. Vol. 2 (2001) on Basta — composed 1955-1957
06. Excepter “Any and Every” from Debt Dept (2008) on Paw Tracks
07. Add N to (X) “The March of Pure Mathematical Evil that Ends and Results in War” from Revenge of the Black Regent (1999) on Mute
08. Stereolab “Refractions in the Plastic Pulse (Autechre Feedbate Mix)” from Miss Modular (1997) on Ovophonic
09. Mouse on Mars “X-Files” from Autoditacker (1997) on Thrill Jockey
10. Polygon Window “If It Really Is Me” from Surfing on Sine Waves (1992) on TVT/Warp
11. Wire “Practice Make Perfect” from Chairs Missing (1978) on Harvest/EMI (UK)
12. Gary Numan “Metal” from Pleasure Principle (1979) on Beggars Banquet
13. Play Dead “Holy Holy” from From the Promised Land (1984) on Clay
14. Atlas Sound “Quarantined” from Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Not Feel (2008) on Kranky
15. Ed Kuepper “Palace of Sin” from Electrical Storm (1986) on Rough Trade
16. Coil “Panic (12″ Version)” from Unnatural History III (1994) on Threshold House
17. Bass Communion Vs. Muslimgauze “Seven” from Bass Communion Vs. Muslimgauze EP (2000) on Soleilmoon
18. Playgroup “Epic Sound Battle” from Epic Sound Battles: Chapter One (1982) on On U Sound
19. Kraftwerk “Pocket Calculator” from Computer World (1981) on Warner