Music Recommendo! - Raymond Scott - Reckless Nights and Turkish Twilights.

Music Week continues today, with something for those with a stomach for quirk. No? No quirk stomach? How's your idiosyncratic stomach? "No" on that as well? Umm, you may want to come back tomorrow.

If you stayed... so, maybe you're pretty weird, and you like (small) big band type music but also something old timey, and you want a dose of cartoons in there as well. You're in luck, you musical sociopath, because Raymond Scott has you covered!

If you were a child at one point, and also lived in or near a house with a television set between the years of 1940 and 1990, you will instantly recognize several of Scott's songs. Try this on for size. It's called Powerhouse, and you know it, but not because of the reason you think you do. You may have to wait till 1:28 to get to the familiar part, though.

"Oh yeah! you say. That's the song that what-his-face wrote for the Bugs Bunny cartoons! What's the guy? Carl Stalling! Yeah!" WRONG! You're WRONG! And please sit down!

Carl Stalling sort of "borrowed" Powerhouse along with the rest of Scott's catalog for use in cartoons, due to Scott's sale of his publishing rights to Warner Bros in 1943. You'd be forgiven for thinking Stalling wrote Powerhouse, but Raymond Scott (actual name Harry Warnow) wrote it about ten years earlier. Forget Carl Stalling.

Scott began his career as the pianist in the CBS orchestra in The Thirties. All the while, he wrote music on the side that was altogether crazier and more dense than anything his professional life required of him. He assembled a band out of a few CBS orchestra colleagues and started his six-piece band, the Raymond Scott Quintet.

He called his music "descriptive jazz", which is why the songs have titles like "Dinner Music for a Pack of Hungry Cannibals." His brilliant craziness meant that his music found a home in one cartoon after another for decades to come. Scott's music found its way into cartoons like Looney Tunes, Ren & Stimpy, The Simpsons, Animaniacs, Duckman, and others. He wasn't writing music for cartoons. He was just writing music that suited himself,  but cartoon makers have embraced his stuff ever since. The music in his head turned out to be perfect for cartoons. How's that for a weirdness pedigree?

Scott took some heat from musical purists at the time for sometimes incorporating classical melodies into his music. They saw it as a debasement of their musical culture. However, if you, like me, owe your early classical music exposure to cartoons, this is no bad thing. It turns out there are lots of people who first became interested in orchestral music because of its use in cartoons. So, as usual, those people losing their shit were freaking out over nothing.

In 1992, a number of unreleased recordings were discovered and subsequently released on the Columbia label as the album Reckless Nights and Turkish Twilights.

Here's an link to Amazon's page for the album, which you can buy on CD for five bucks, or download compressed MP3's for... ten dollars? I say get the disc and you can re-rip it again and again down the road at higher and higher bitrates as storage becomes cheaper and cheaper, but that's just my musical consumption philosophy in general. Physical media, all the way, baby, and don't tell me what I can and can't do with my own files. Okay, editorial complete.

Here are some songs you din't know you knew:

In an Eighteenth-Century Drawing Room, which rankled the snobs because Scott grabbed the melody from Mozart's Piano Sonata in C Major...

The Toy Trumpet, which you may recall from the Ren & Stimpy episode "In the Army" and probably some other places. Don't ask me what's with the people on the train in the picture.

But the big hit everyone recognizes is still Powerhouse. How big? Rush used a little bit of it in their nearly-impossible-to-play-in-one-take song "La Villa Strangiato". In this embedded video, skip to 6:05 to hear the little nod to Powerhouse.

...or just use this handy link that's indexed to the right part of the song at FaceTube.

You can find other compilations of Raymond Scott's music, including the re-recordings by the Dutch jazz group The Beau Hunks, playing faithful versions of Scott's hits on period-correct instruments (jeez!). But Reckless Nights and Turkish Twilights is the album that brought Scott back to the record store shelves, and is probably the best place to start.

That can be your good dose of vitamin Crazy for the day.


Michelle_Randy said...

Excellent! And I absolutely agree about the cartoon/classical music collection. I became enamored with Franz Listz's Hungarian Rhapsodies because of this cartoon.

Also have you heard Oranj Symphonette? I got their Mancini album back in the 90s (they've only done 2 albums), but their stuff reminds me of Raymond Scott for some reason.

Michelle_Randy said...

Also, thank you for the Rush video. One of my favorites. The tempo transitions in that song blow me away.

Jim Dillon said...

Years ago a coworker gave me a ripped copy of a bunch of Beau Hunks stuff for my birthday. Good stuff! I didn't know Raymond Scott composed that.

PhilAreGo@gmail.com said...

Hah! Orange Symphonette have just gone on my Asthmazon wish list. Thanks for the tip, Michelle! Rush's love of complex time signatures and rhythmic changes makes Ray Scott a natural fit in 'Strangiato.

Jim, the Beau Hunks also did an album of re-recorded music from the Little Rascals shorts. You may get a kick out of that... or some champagne. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ZERQfgYqN4&list=PLF125BF695FC4BBEA

Thanks for reading!


Jack_Dayton_72 said...

I have the complete set of music used on Ren & Stimpy - sometimes we play it in the background at work like the office soundtrack. Absolutely hilarious when Powerhouse comes on....watching people move around to the tempo.

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