recess radio program

06/19/07
Soothing Sounds for Baby
    by Jaimy Mann

My newborn, like most babies, calms when she hears the vacuum, but the music that stimulates her is by Raymond Scott. When she first heard this, at two weeks old, it was as if codes in the electronic music were special messages only understood by infants. The instruments used in Soothing Sounds are mysterious and open to speculation because they predate many of the electronic inventions artists currently use. Scott's Soothing Sounds for Baby was first recorded in the early 1960s.

By this time, he was already considered a pioneer of electronic technology. A "legacy," in fact, yet his "influence" on artists and technology was limited because he privately and rather secretively labored. And, even if he were not so secretive, it wasn't cost-effective to reproduce his inventions. For example, in 1948, Scott began work on a $100,000 gadget that could imitate the wheeze of a chest cough, kitchen clatter, the sizzle of frying steak, and jungle drums. Although his reputation is one of a rather eccentric man -- who at one point had 32 rooms of his house filled with audio devices -- he was quite successful as a composer of novelties adapted into Warner Brothers Cartoons.

In 1943, he was organizer of the first racially mixed radio orchestra, and, in the late 1950s, he became one of the first to score all-electronic soundtracks for TV commercials. This is according to Irwin Chusid, Director of the Raymond Scott Archives, who also writes that "When Scott retired from the bandstand, he devoted himself full-time to the advancement of electronic sound creation. Unfortunately, he released few recordings during this period" (5). One release was music for babies, yet it reportedly sold only a few thousand copies.

Dave Cross writes, "Scott's musical career had come full circle. His initial fame was creating "cartoon jazz" appropriated for the use of children, and his last record releases were specifically designed for children" (13). And successfully designed as my infant can attest to. Luckily for both of us, Soothing Sounds for Baby was issued in three installments: 1 to 6 months, 6 to 12 months, and 12 to 18 months. We'll see in a couple of months if Scott was as musically attuned to the older baby as he is to this very young one.

Copyright 2007 Jaimy Mann

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Monday, 28-May-2007 17:16:52 EDT


"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's Center for Children's Literature and Culture and WUFT-FM, "Classic 89."