As Spencer is wont to do, he made my musical day at Saturday’s dinner by bringing out a couple of discs that I’d known about for quite some time but never located because of incomplete knowledge concerning the records. This entry is about the later work of Raymond Scott on the disc set titled
“Manhattan Research, Inc”, the eccentric composer whose work is best known as the quirky, high-energy soundtrack to a number of Warner Brothers cartoons. I’ll just assure you that you’ve heard his work and let you dig up the details if you’re interested.
Beginning in the late forties, Scott began to explore the possibilities for compostion and performance available by mechanical and electronic means. Apparently, he was frequently frustrated by what he perceived as individualistic execution of his arrangements by the musicians, arrangers, and recording engineers he worked with as a successful composer of pop and advertising music. His solution? Build machines that he could control directly.
A great deal of this charming and often incredible music has been re-issued by
Basta in collaboration with the Raymond Scott Archives. The disc under discussion collects material recorded by Scott for primarily commercial use, and I personally have a deep fondness for “IBM MT/ST: The Paperwork Explosion”, which is a four-and-a-half minute commercial for an early IBM word processor. Scott intermingles futuristic beeps with actor’s voices stiffly repeating simple lines such as “In the past, there always seemed to be enough time to do the paperwork” to convey the idea that effecive use of the IBM device would create sufficient time for knowledge workers to, well, think.
This stuff is priceless, and Scott helped to shape our aural ideas of what the future once sounded like. Listening to it is like running into an old acquaintance.