Manhattan Research, Inc.Perhaps unfairly best known for having his music repurposed into the backing tracks for classic Warner Bros. cartoons, the late Raymond Scott has another claim to fame that often gets overlooked – he was one of the true pioneers of electronic music in America. In this area, Scott was a true renaissance man: not only did he pioneer the sound, but he built his own instruments and early devices that presaged sequencers, and he even did some of the first work on multi-track recording, at roughly the same time that Les Paul was experimenting with similar ideas. In the 1950s and 1960s (at roughly the same time as the ascendancy of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop), Scott was carving out his own path in an entire new genre of music.

Not only that, but Scott was trying his hardest to make his experiments pay for themselves: he marketed his unusual new sounds as music beds and jingles for commercials, with some success. The two-disc Manhattan Research, Inc. collection chronicles and archives that material, with a selection of Scott’s finished spots (both with and without announcers/singers) as well as demos and experiments that never made it to radio. The commercials range from obscurely local/regional campaigns (Baltimore Gas & Electric Company) to major national campaigns (IBM, Bufferin, Vicks, General Motors and a Sprite radio campaign that remains famous enough that it’s now become an ironic cover song). In a way, Scott achieved his aim by getting a new style of music into the ears of millions of listeners – but until now, not with any recognition.

While the commercials are a nostalgia trip that goes back even before the writer of this review was born, some of the purely instrumental pieces are startlingly ahead of their time: the “Night and Day” track on the first disc could’ve caught on in the 1980s had it been revived then. “Take Me To Your Violin Teacher” could easily be mistaken for modern chiptunes performed with 1980s video game hardware… and yet it was recorded in 1969. “Ripples (Montage)” anticipates abstract-but-tuneful electronic film scoring. “Cindy Electronium” sounds like late ’80s/early ’90s video game music.

There are a few throwbacks as well; Scott tries out completely electronic renditions of his existing compositions including “The Toy Trumpet” (which becomes almost unrecognizable) and “Twilight In Turkey”, both of which featured in their original, jazzier forms on Reckless Nights & Turkish Twilights. Some of his electronic music beds are also quite obviously very close cousins of the music from his Soothing Sounds For Baby albums. There’s also one very interesting guest star on a few tracks: the voice of none other than Jim Henson graces some tracks recorded in 1969, including “Limbo: The Organized Mind”, a free-form ramble set to Scott’s electronic sounds, and a couple of Bufferin commercials which seem to have sprung from “Limbo” both conceptually and musically.

A lot of this information, incidentally, is included in a book that clocks in at around 140 pages and covers Scott’s entire life and career, not just the material on these two CDs, in a wealth of detail.

3 out of 4Raymond Scott is still overdue for a reassessment of one of the electronic music pioneers in the United States, to say nothing of being a composer whose works influenced generations of children (by way of Warner Bros. cartoons). Manhattan Research, Inc. really isn’t a “general audience” listening experience, but it’s an invaluable archive for anyone interested in how electronic music gained a foothold in our national consciousness: in little snippets, 30 or so seconds at a time, behind commercial announcers and jingle singers.

Order this CD

    Disc One

  1. Manhattan Research, Inc. Copyright (0:11)
  2. Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. (Instrumental, Take 4) (1:14)
  3. Bendix 1: The Tomorrow People (1:06)
  4. Lightworks (1:52)
  5. The Bass-line Generator (3:10)
  6. Don’t Beat Your Wife Every Night! (1:44)
  7. B.C. 1675 (Gillette Conga Drum Jingle) (3:16)
  8. Vim (0:59)
  9. Auto-Lite: Sta-Ful (Instrumental) (0:47)
  10. Sprite: Melonball Bounce (Instrumental) (1963)
  11. Sprite: Melonball Bounce (1963)
  12. Wheels That Go (0:50)
  13. Limbo: The Organized Mind (4:33)
  14. Portofino 1 (2:13)
  15. County Fair (1:01)
  16. Lady Gaylord (1:02)
  17. Good Air (Take 7) (0:38)
  18. IBM MT/ST: The Paperwork Explosion (4:31)
  19. Domino (0:33)
  20. Super Cheer (0:34)
  21. Cheer: Revision 3 (New Backgrounds) (0:39)
  22. Twilight in Turkey (1:32)
  23. Raymond Scott Quote / Vicks: Medicated Cough Drops (1:34)
  24. Vicks: Formula 44 (0:46)
  25. Auto-Lite: Spark Plugs (1:00)
  26. Nescafe (1:06)
  27. Awake (0:35)
  28. Backwards Overload (6:04)
  29. Bufferin: Memories (Original) (0:59)
  30. Bandito the Bongo Artist (1:30)
  31. Night and Day (Cole Porter) (1:45)
  32. Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. (“395”) (1:07)
  33. K2r (0:19)
  34. IBM Probe (1:56)
  35. GMGM 1A (1:49)
  36. The Rhythm Modulator (3:37)
    Disc Two

  1. Ohio Plus (0:17)
  2. In the Hall of the Mountain Queen (0:49)
  3. General Motors: Futurama (1:04)
  4. Portofino 2 (2:14)
  5. The Wild Piece (a.k.a. String Piece) (4:07)
  6. Take Me to Your Violin Teacher (1:40)
  7. Ripples (Original Soundtrack) (0:59)
  8. Cyclic Bit (1:04)
  9. Ripples (Montage) (4:06)
  10. The Wing Thing (1:00)
  11. County Fair (Instrumental) (1:00)
  12. Cindy Electronium (1:59)
  13. Don’t Beat Your Wife Every Night! (Instrumental) (1:45)
  14. Hostess: Twinkies (0:32)
  15. Hostess: Twinkies (Instrumental) (0:32)
  16. Ohio Bell: Thermo Fax (0:24)
  17. Pygmy Taxi Corporation (7:11)
  18. Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. (Announce Copy, Take 1) (0:29)
  19. Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. (0:44)
  20. Lightworks (Slow) (1:40)
  21. The Paperwork Explosion (Instrumental) (3:30)
  22. Auto-Lite: Ford Family (1:03)
  23. Auto-Lite: Ford Family (Instrumental) (0:54)
  24. Raymond Scott Quote / Auto-Lite: Wheels (1:50)
  25. Bufferin: Memories (Demo) (0:44)
  26. Space Mystery (Montage) (5:11)
  27. The Toy Trumpet (2:15)
  28. Backwards Beeps (1:05)
  29. Raymond Scott Quote / Auto-Lite: Sta-Ful (1:36)
  30. Lightworks (Instrumental) (1:29)
  31. When Will It End? (3:14)
  32. Bendix 2: The Tomorrow People (1963)
  33. Electronic Audio Logos, Inc. (5:23)

Released by: Basta
Release date: 2000
Disc one total running time: 58:48
Disc two total running time: 63:11