The feature-length documentary is a music-filled biographical film about the life and work of Raymond Scott. It also is a personal investigation into the father/son dynamic — what it means to have a famous father obsessed with his work and the consequent impact on the parent/child relationship.
Raymond Scott was more comfortable with technology than with people, including his own children. This personal angle is intertwined with the compelling story of a true American music innovator — one who had a meteoric rise to household-name success, followed by a slow spiral into obscurity and now, posthumously, a growing acknowledgment of his central role in modern music and music technology.
In recent years his work has been performed by groups ranging from Rush, Devo, and They Might Be Giants to the Kronos Quartet, and sampled by numerous DJs and hip-hop acts, and adapted by the virtual super-group Gorillaz.
This documentary is a vibrant tapestry of stills, home movies, film and television excerpts (Scott was orchestra leader on the weekly Your Hit Parade TV show during the 1950s), musical performances and interviews.
My father recorded virtually everything said in the studio, including his phone conversations, and there are lengthy audio interviews. Therefore much of the story is told in his own words — revealing a complicated, often dysfunctional family; at times humorous in conveying Scott’s own quirkiness, and serious in dealing with his rigorous devotion to all aspects of his creative and technical life.
Naturally it is scored with Scott’s music, covering a wide range of styles, including swinging jazz pieces played by the Raymond Scott Quintette, the groundbreaking group that brought him his early fame in the 1930s. In his middle years he returned to his first love — electronics, and he was a synthesizer pioneer. His crowning invention was the Electronium, a “simultaneous composition and performance machine” that was purchased by Motown. There are also cartoon excerpts — Carl Stalling, the music director at Warner Brothers adapted 20 of Scott’s quirky, original tunes (“Powerhouse” being the most famous) to amplify the adventures of Bugs Bunny and company.
Family interviews include his daughter Carrie, and two of his wives; first wife Pearl, and third, Mitzi. Unfortunately his second wife and protege, the singer/actress Dorothy Collins, died in 1994, before production of this film commenced; the fascinating story of their relationship is told through the recollections of others. Other interviewees include multi-Academy Award®-winning movie soundtrack composer John Williams (“STAR WARS“), whose father Johnny was the drummer in the Raymond Scott Quintette; musician, movie & TV score writer, and DEVO co-founder, Mark Mothersbaugh, Grammy®-nominated clarinetist Don Byron, Music and concert Producer Hal Willner (“Saturday Night Live“), co-inventor of the MOOG Synthesizer, Herb Deutsch, turntablist, producer, and author, Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky; Grammy®-nominated violinist Jeremy Cohen, and many others. The film is the defining portrait of this under-recognized American icon.