Sunday, June 10, 2007


Lately it seems I've been dropping Raymond Scott comparisons all over the place - I've done it here two times in the past few months, and I'm pretty sure I've tagged it on at least one Carlos Giffoni record somewhere - so I figured maybe I could get it out of my system by making a retro post on the man himself. If you've heard of Mr. S, chances are it's either through his stellar absurdo-jazz / cartoon-score work, or through his three volumes of legendarily bizarre, proto-techno family-help records known as Soothing Sounds For Baby. That's all excellent stuff, for sure, but it's meant that he generally is thought of as a kind of geeky electronics guy who managed to come up with some wacky sounds as a residue of his technological experiments (this is a guess - it's not like I've taken a survey or anything...)

Anyway whether or not that's true, I think it's safe to say that very few people think of R.S.'s work as noise. And I think it's kinda crucial to realize how prescient his stuff was in terms of treating every sound as worth exploring regardless of how "musical" it might be, and, even more importantly, in terms of how fun and funny noise can be. When I hear blurps and farts in Jessica Rylan's stuff or wheezes and honks in Giffoni's, well, I laugh, and I think a lot of non-believers in noise assume it's all supposed to be serious or scary or intimidating, which just couldn't be more wrong. Maybe I'm not really making my point too well - all I'm saying is that Raymond Scott's noise was both excitingly experimental and totally hilarious, and I think it makes him a pretty important touchstone for those of us who think the best noise has a lot of fucking moods, happiness and humor and absurdity and surrealness firmly among them.

Lots of the Scott stuff available is not really noisy enough to make that case, but luckily a few years back the fine archivists at Basta offered a glimpse into Scott's noisier tendencies by unearthing the many shades of sonic experimentalism he stirred up in his Manhattan Research, Inc. labs. If you haven't heard this stuff, I think you really need to - I bet it'll steer you to what I'm not so eloquently talking about above, if you don't agree already. I've posted 3 quick clips below, all excellent examples of Scott's ability to find humor and freedom in experimental noise - instead of always trying to harness melodies or punch lines out of his gadgetry, Scott sometimes let the transistors guide him, and the results were noisy, funny, and pretty much always spellbinding. I've purposely picked the ones that sound most like today's noise just to show how much of a prophet the guy was, but check out the whole thing and you'll find stuff that combines noise, structure, melody, and fucking advertising in a way that still really blows me away.

RAYMOND SCOTT - "Auto-Lite (Sta-Ful)," "Gmgm 1a," and "Take Me to Your Violin Teacher," all from Manhattan Research Inc.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Site Meter