This is a post to raise awareness of one of my musical heroes. He first came to my attention in two ways a few years ago when I watched a concert dedicated to his music at Manchester jazz festival. Also, at around the same time the hip hop producer J Dilla died and his final album (Donuts) contained a track based on the Raymond Scott track “Lightworks“.

Graduating in piano, theory and composition just before the second world war he naturally started writing in the swing jazz style of the time but producing incredibly busy music (quite abstract titles at times) and requiring talented players to interpret and perform. Instead of relying on written arrangements like most people of his background did, he was very set on all his band members playing by ear. He would have an arrangement in his head and hum the parts to each of the band till they could play it. The music made during this era is familiar to most people as it was adapted to become background music to Warner Bros. cartoons such as Looney Tunes and Bugs Bunny. It is also the soundtrack to Ren & Stimpy and features in the Simpsons.

In addition to the impressive career he had as a swing era bandleader and composer he was a keen electronic sound engineer and pioneered the use of electronic instruments in recorded music. This was a long time before Moogs and the analog synths we usually hear. Through establishing the company Manhattan Research Inc he was responsible for the first sequencers and most consumer products of the time that made electronic noises. From the 40s to the early 60s most electronic noises heard from alarms, telephones, tv adverts were created by his machines. There is an excellent cd summarising these sounds which I thoroughly recommend. The soothing baby compilations he made seem to be sampled often on hip hop records for some reason.

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