Accompanying the wacky hijinks of beloved cartoon characters such as Bugs Bunny, Wile E Coyote, and Tom and Jerry, the composers of the “golden age of animation” produced some of the most fast-paced, genre-bending, and zany music ever created. Fireworks pairs classic scores such as Raymond Scott’s “Dinner Music For A Pack Of Hungry Cannibals,” Carl Stalling’s Roadrunner tour-de-force “There They Go-Go-Go!,” and Scott Bradley’s Tom and Jerry soundtrack “Puttin’ On The Dog” with contemporary masters that they influenced such as John Adams and John Zorn.
A celebration of the golden age of cartoons and the music it inspired, Fireworks traces the development of one of America’s great musical legacies from the fast-paced, colorful jazz of depression-era bandleader Raymond Scott through the ingenious scores for cartoons featuring the likes of Bugs Bunny and the Roadrunner, to full fruition as a great art form in the music of contemporary American masters.
Cartoon spotlights the talents of Carl Stalling and Scott Bradley, house composers for the Warner Bros. and MGM animation studios, whose music accompanied the escapades of such beloved characters as Bugs Bunny, Wile E. Coyote, and Tom & Jerry throughout the “golden age” of cartoon animation from the 1930s through the 1950s. At a time when American classical music was generally conservative, these unsung (and largely unknown) cartoon composers were writing scores of incredible originality, craft, and complexity which were far ahead of their time but which still resonate today. Fireworks’ Cartoon project includes classic cartoon scores, ranging from the time of the earliest “talkies” with Stalling’s score for the The Village Smitty, through Scott Bradley’s wartime Tom and Jerry masterpiece Puttin’ On the Dog, to the peak of the composers’ craft at the end of the 1950s with Stalling’s thrilling score for the Roadrunner classic There They Go-Go-Go!
The project also features the breakneck chamber jazz of Raymond Scott. One of the 1930’s popular bandleaders, Scott composed some of the most virtuosic and lively jazz tunes of the day, many of them with wonderfully programmatic titles such as Restless Night Aboard an Ocean Liner and New Year’s Eve in a Haunted House. Though Scott never wrote a note for a soundtrack in his life, composers like Carl Stalling considered Scott’s vivid, colorful tunes a perfect match for the action-packed cartoons of the day, and peppered Scott’s tunes so thoroughly throughout countless scores, that his themes are now virtually synonymous with cartoon music. Cartoon includes many of Scott’s most memorable pieces, including Powerhouse, Dinner Music for a Pack of Hungry Cannibals, and War Dance for Wooden Indians, in their original chamber-jazz format.
Just as Scott never could have imagined becoming the most famous composer of cartoon music, Stalling and Bradley certainly never could have foreseen how influential their music would become to the generations of composers that followed. Characterized by clever quotation, quick cuts between far-ranging musical styles, and the carefree juxtaposition of jarring dissonant effects with melodious popular song, Stalling and Bradley created not only some of the most interesting and vibrant music of their time, but also foreshadowed the pastiche and juxtapostion techniques of American avant-garde composers decades later. By pairing music by the Stalling, Bradley, and Scott with contemporary works by composers such as John Adams and John Zorn, Fireworks shows how Bugs, Daffy, and Tom & Jerry’s legacy lives on not only in childhood memories, but also in the music of some of America’s greatest contemporary masters.