Staff Picks #1

Some of you may have noticed a “staff picks” section near the reference area in the Music Library. These are interesting, noteworthy, or just favorite CDs selected by the full-time and student staff. This irregular series of blog posts will highlight certain individual staff picks, and hopefully I’ll be able to corral some of the other Library staff to contribute their thoughts on why their pick is somehow special.

To kick things off, a few words about my most recent pick, Manhattan Research, Inc. by Raymond Scott.

Manhattan Research, Inc.

Raymond Scott was a pianist, composer, and inventor of electronic instruments, and is perhaps one of the most widely heard yet least known of American musicians of the last 50 years or so. He started out writing tunes for his jazz band (the “Raymond Scott Quintette”), and several of these — Powerhouse, The Penguin, and Dinner Music For A Pack Of Hungry Cannibals being perhaps the best-known — were later used in the Warner Bros.’ Loony Tunes cartoons. I think almost everyone is familiar with the 2nd theme of Powerhouse, even if, as is likely, you never realized who wrote it. (Carl Stalling sometimes gets credit for Scott’s music, because he’s the one who adapted and arranged Scott’s works — and other composers’, as well as writing some of his own themes — for Warner Bros.)

YouTube has a great performance of Powerhouse by the Quintette. Check it out. The famous 2nd theme starts about 1:35 in.

Scott eventually desired more control over the performance of his music than he felt he could get from his Quintette — as a composer, he didn’t seem to care much about his musicians’ need to express their own creativity. So he turned to inventing electronic instruments (some of which he worked on with Bob Moog) and composed music specifically for them. This is where the Manhattan Research, Inc. disc picks up. It has a great assortment of Scott’s electronic bleeps and bloops, many of which were composed for use in television ads in the ’50s and ’60s. Sponsors who used Scott’s music in their advertising included Sprite, Hostess Twinkies, Bufferin, Vicks, and GM. More recently, some of these pieces were recycled in a couple of ads for Tic Tacs:


Scott’s career was fascinating and a bit sad. The Manhattan Research, Inc. disc is bound with a booklet that provides a thorough overview of his life, and has some fabulous photos of his electronic instruments. If you’re looking for something a little off-the-beaten path, stop by the library and pick up both this disc and the other one we have, Reckless Nights and Turkish Twilights, which features his earlier jazz band recordings.

If you want to read more, there’s an extensive page of review excerpts on the Raymond Scott website extolling the virtues of Manhattan Research, Inc. Happy listening!

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