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Raymond Scott Back On The Big Screen

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by Leonard Maltin
July 12, 2012 1:00 AM
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If you grew up watching Warner Bros. cartoons, you know the music of Raymond Scott, even if his name isn’t familiar. He was an innovative musician and composer whose propulsive, syncopated piece “Powerhouse” was adopted by Warner’s music director Carl Stalling as a recurring theme in his Looney Tunes scores. Other Scott melodies made their way into my consciousness because of their repeated exposure in these cartoons.

Although he worked in the mainstream of show business, especially during his run as bandleader on the popular TV show Your Hit Parade in the 1950s, Scott was virtually forgotten until such musicologists as Irwin Chusid and Hal Willner started doing research and unearthing original recordings in the 1980s. Since that time there have been wonderful reissue CDs and a general resurgence of interest in Scott and his work—all the more so as it was revealed that in later years, he was a pioneer in the development of the synthesizer. His original compositions have been revived and recorded by such contemporary artists as Rush, Devo, They Might Be Giants, and the Kronos Quartet.

Raymond Scott poses with his Scott Clavivox, an early form of synthesizer.

Scott’s son, Stan Warnow, made a highly personal documentary two years ago called Deconstructing Dad: The Music, Machines, and Mystery of Raymond Scott. It isn’t slick or polished but it is candid and highly personal, as Stan tries to understand his enigmatic father who was, by all accounts, a musical genius. He interviews a number of people including John Williams, whose father played drums with the Raymond Scott Quintette when it made its landmark recordings in the 1930s.

I’ve written about the documentary before and touted the DVD, which you can purchase HERE. But now Deconstructing Dad is getting a theatrical run in Manhattan, beginning Friday, July 13 at the Quad Cinema. This will also result in the film being reviewed by major media outlets, which of course will raise its profile. If you want to learn more about the film, click HERE

Stan Warnow's Deconstructing Dad

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    The Music, Machines, and Mystery of Raymond Scott

    This is Scott’s Electronium prototype, funded in part by Berry Gordy...
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    The Music, Machines, and Mystery of Raymond Scott

    The Electronium that was built for Motown.
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