Ask anyone to name the 20th century's musical giants and you'll hear a familiar refrain: Armstrong, Ellington, Stravinski, Gershwin, probably Parker, possibly Presley, but one pioneer will likely go unnamed, and unjustly so. From pop to progressive, you'd be hard pressed to find a composer, arranger, bandleader, or inventor who comes close to matching the impact of Raymond Scott. From his quirky compositions of the '30s, used in hundreds of cartoons (you've heard the robotic staccato march of "Powerhouse," even if you don't recognize the title), to his stint as conductor and arranger for "Your Hit Parade" on CBS radio and television, to his groundbreaking experiments with electronic music, Scott is unquestionably one of the century's most influential musical figures. And thanks to a new collection of his unreleased work, much of which is held by Special Collections at the Miller Nichols Library of the University of Missouri - Kansas City, Scott's significance is reemerging.
Manhattan Research Inc., a two-CD set from Holland's Basta Records (Basta 3090 782), features Scott performing his own compositions from the '50s and '60s on electronic instruments of his own design, including the Clavivox, Circle Machine, Karloff, and Electronium. Beautifully presented in a 144-page full-color hard-bound book, the 69-track set spans the gamut of Scott's electronic compositions, including songs, commercial jingles, and scores for film shorts with Muppet creator Jim Henson.
Producers Gert-Jan Blom and Jeff Winner relied heavily on the nearly 5,000-piece Raymond Scott Collection housed in Special Collections and the Marr Sound Archives. Both spent a week in the Miller Nichols Library in early 1999, working closely with Scott Middleton, Teresa Gipson, and Chuck Haddix to select sound and images for the project.
Presented to UMKC by Scott's wife Mitzi in 1993, the collection's sound recordings are in the Marr Sound Archives, with the photos and manuscripts in Special Collections. Original source tapes were transferred to digital audio by Marr engineer Scott Middleton, and Teresa Gipson collected images and documents from Special Collections for the project. Manhattan Research Inc., which was released in early May, 2000 has garnered rave reviews in US News, the Boston Phoenix, Record Collector from the UK, and other online and print media, and has been featured on KCUR - National Public Radio. With the RealAudioTM player, you can listen to this short feature by clicking here. Many thanks to Laura Spencer and KCUR-FM for permission to make this NPR feature available.
A copy of Manhattan Research Inc. has been added to the library's collection and is available for listening and viewing in the library.
Text by Scott O'Kelley - Special Collections
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