Raymond Scott was an American band leader and composer who died in 1994. Not only did he write a sheaf of energetic musical cues that found their way into over 100 Warner Brothers cartoons, but his early experimentation with electronic music was the work of a true pioneer.
When you hear his work for Hollywood — and the man himself is not very well known today — you immediately think, “Oh my gosh! I’ve heard that before.” (Probably in a ‘Road Runner’ cartoon, if not a ‘Simpsons’ episode.) Raymond Scott’s music for the movies is busy and fluid and catchy. It’s almost never not all three. The most performed Scott composition is called “Powerhouse”.
But then you put on Scott’s later music for ‘clavivox’ or ‘electronium’, which was an early synthesizer, and you think, “This is Outer Space comes to ‘Mad Men’. Scott wrote and recorded numerous jingle-type numbers for television advertisements — in his home studio — and several of them made it to prime time. I think his tune for “Lightworks” is one of his best. (I sing it now before brushing my teeth.)
Scott’s son, Stanley Warnow, made a documentary about his father entitled “Deconstructing Dad”. It’s very good, and tells the true story of this amazing, somewhat impersonal man.
What strikes you when you listen to the music of Raymond Scott, and learn about the long course of his creative life, is that he was a kind of “medium” or clear vessel for the “Spirit that was hovering over the waters” (Genesis 1:2). The music never stopped coming to him. It never ceased its visitations.
The man was an endless, tireless inventor, and innovator. At the end of Scott’s life, Berry Gordy, the Motown man, was so impressed by Scott’s approach that Gordy moved him out to Los Angeles and put him to work. Little seems to have come of it for Berry Gordy, but a lot still came through Raymond Scott.
Creativity is an interesting process. Think about creativity, or better, inspiration, in the case of preachers: If you try to “come up” with something to say Sunday morning — if you try to build something that’s essentially a talk or a lecture — it’s not likely you’re going to connect directly with the suffering inner life of your hearer. For many decades, maybe many centuries, it seemed to be the hard fate of ministers to have to manufacture thoughts on Saturday, even on the basis of a good and noble text, to deliver the following day.
But this was never the source of preaching which connects. The source of preaching which connects is an open receptor, to the preacher’s own suffering, to the preacher’s own wounds and warts, to which the Spirit of God brings the Balm in Gilead. The preacher is a medium. All his or her efforts to come up with something, even something which could be sustaining, have gotta go! He’s got to “let go (of himself/herself) and let God.” That’s what preaching is.
Raymond Scott is an example, in the field of secular music, of what is sometimes called a “sensorium”. He “heard a new world”, like a contemporary of his on the Holloway Road in London; and got out of the way.
Try a little Raymond Scott for your life. Oh, there’s “Twilight in Turkey”, “The Toy Trumpet”, “The Penguins”, “March of the Wooden Indians”. And there’s also — the same Spirit, the same transparent person, just a later date — “Cindy Electronium”, and “Lightworks”.