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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Raymond Scott: The True Inventor of the Cartoon Jazz Sound
by Beltran, Michael P., M.M., California State University, Long Beach, 2017, 35; 10263335
Abstract (Summary)

Raymond Scott’s unwittingly famous piece, Powerhouse, unintentionally inspired the sound of the golden age of animated music. Selling his complete catalog to Warner Bros., several of Scott’s original compositions can be heard in Warner Bros. cartoons during the 1930’s to the 1950’s. Director of music at Warner Bros., Carl Stalling adapted many works by Scott during this time period and often used the same melody in several animations. The theme from Powerhouse was often used to denote a sense of productivity, such as a display of a production line, influential considering the war effort of World War II. During this time, animated shorts were relatively new to popular culture and were looked down upon by composers, or seen as lesser works of art. Scott, having claimed to never watch cartoons, inadvertently inspired a generation of future composers in this format.

By examining the piece Powerhouse, an analysis will show a complementary relationship between animated visuals and Scott’s playful jazz style. Working from the context of a small jazz ensemble, Scott’s composition weaves intricate arrangements to create distinct worlds of sound, with titles including: Reckless Night on Board of an Ocean Liner, Dinner Music for a Pack of Hungry Cannibals, & New Year’s Eve in a Haunted House. These jazz arrangements include abrupt juxtapositions between different sections, often switching between meter, instrumentation, and tempo. Scott’s jazz compositions strayed away from the normal jazz styling of the time and veered toward denser orchestrations rather than improvisation, which were common of the period.

Examining the popularity of many of the Merry Melody cartoons, these songs and melodies have become engrained in people’s minds, which pose questions about original context and intent of the artist. Raymond Scott’s compositions have defined an era of animation and continue to influence works more than 60 years later.

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Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Briggs, Ray
Commitee: Hickman, Roger, Jarvis, Jeff
School: California State University, Long Beach
Department: Music
School Location: United States -- California
Source: MAI 56/05M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Music theory, Biographies, Music
Keywords: Animation, Cartoon, Jazz, Powerhouse, Raymond, Scott
Publication Number: 10263335
ISBN: 978-0-355-08150-3
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