Deconstructing Dad is a documentary dedicated to Raymond Scott, one of the true geniuses of the past century. As (hopefully) most of you will know, he was an accomplished musician, a very original composer and the inventor of some revolutionary electronic musical instruments.
Deconstructing Dad, now available on dvd, is directed and produced by Stan Warnow, Raymond’s son from his first marriage. It’s a an act of love, a virtual reconciliation with someone who’s never been a perfect father. The documentary, while not extremely focused on musical or technical details, is a very interesting journey into Raymond Scott’s life and carreer.
It’s cool to see the few rare clips of Raymond Scott’s bands in action, and to hear some phone conversations (yes, he used to record private conversations, that was part of his technology addiction). Also, the interviews with people like Jeff Winner (co-producer and founder of the official Raymond Scott Archives), Hal Willner, Don Byron, Williams, Herb Deutsch (Moog co-inventor) etc. help understanding Scott’s personality and approach to music.
There’s a passage in the movie which tells a lot about Scott’s approach and evolution: with his bands he was playing jazz, but it was not actually jazz. I mean, the instrumentation and the language could be defined as such, but the approach was completely different.
Control is the keyword here. He wanted to be in control. No improvisation, almost a sacrilege for jazz purists!
This clearly explains why later he fell in love with creating and using electronic instruments. In his lab (which looked incredible, by the way) he finally had complete control over the whole musical process. And, as far as we know, the tools he created were really unique and ahead of his time. In the fifties he had created a synthesizer, the Clavivox, and a polyphonic sequencer, before these words even existed.
But he wanted more, he was dreaming of an intelligent machine, able to automatically generate music. And he created one, the Electronium, which was also bought by Barry Gordy, Motown’s godfather (which hired Scott at Motown too, as researcher). Raymond Scott was definitely not interested in marketing his creatures. For him they were all a huge “work in progress”, he was constantly working to improve them, and that explains why years later he was fired by Gordy, tired of investing so much money on machines that were not ready to be shown to potential customers yet.
Raymond Scott to me is a sort of modern Leonardo Da Vinci: a perfect, rare, visionary mix of art and craft skills.
As said, this documentary is more about the man than about his music or his creations. While this leaves space to other, more specialized analysis of his work as composer and inventor, I’d definitely recommend watching Deconstructing Dad. It’s an excellent, intimate and original introduction to Raymond Scott’s genius.
Via: Audio News Room