Song Of The Day 3/10/2014: Raymond Scott - "Twilight In Turkey" (Electronium Version)


UPDATE: Jeff Winner of the Raymond Scott Archives makes some clarifications about the Electronium below in the comments section. 

The Happy Electrode: A lot of mystery still surrounds the Electronium, invented by one of the most important figures in the history of music technology, Raymond Scott. There's no instruction manual for it. Scott was reported to have spent eleven years and nearly a million dollars developing the instrument, but whenever it might have been completed it would have been outmoded by other products from the digital realm.

Wikipedia, that reliable source of animal reproductive processes and estimated dates of death, describes Scott's Electronium as a "combined electronic synthesizer and algorithmic composition/generative music machine." Whatever the description, it found a fairly unlikely patron in Berry Gordy, Jr., founder of Motown Records. Scott, normally hermitic when it came to revealing his inventions, was only too eager to show it to Gordy, who acquired the Electronium and made Scott Motown's "head of electronic music" in 1971. There wasn't much history for the instrument after that -- as far as we know only one Electronium ever existed, and after Scott's death it was procured by Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo.

"Twilight in Turkey" was a Scott instrumental, the jazz version of which dated back to the 1930's. (Elements of the composition were used in one of my favorite hip hop tracks of all time.) Scott re-fed it through the Electronium. It's much sparser and twitchier than the original.

Tomorrow we look at one of the only musical instruments that ever truly terrified and intimidated me. Get out your switchboards. Here's more stuff on Raymond Scott and the Electronium, featuring Mothersbaugh and your new favorite Tonight Show bandleader:




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