Raymond Scott's Early Work in Electronic Music

In the period from the late 1940s through the early 1950s Scott began to concentrate more on electronic music, exploring new designs and devices. He meets a young Bob Moog who supplies him with a theremin that he transforms into a keyboard synth he calls the Clavivox.

By The Raymond Scott Archives

Founding of Manhattan Research

Manhattan Research Ad Header, Unknown Designer, From the collection of: The Raymond Scott Archives
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In 1946, Scott formed Manhattan Research Inc., so he could start developing music machines. After years of leading orchestras and jazz combos, Scott was spending less time with sidemen, and more time soldering relays. He felt more comfortable with his machines; they both spoke a common language.  

The Visionary Orchestra Machine

In March 1946, Raymond Scott filed a US patent disclosure for The Orchestra Machine, which was designed as a tape loop-based electro-mechanical musical instrument. It featured a keyboard that would simulate an ensemble of traditional musicians. Raymond Scott’s design predated the conceptually identical English Mellotron (used by the Beatles, particularly in the "Strawberry Fields" intro), by nearly two decades.

Orchestra Machine Patent Disclosure, From the collection of: The Raymond Scott Archives
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Karloff, A Monster of a Sound Effects Machine

In 1948, Scott began a decade of development on a monstrous sound-effects generator, which he called “Karloff,” as a nod to actor Boris Karloff, who turned Dr. Frankenstein’s monster into a cinematic icon. Karloff could imitate a chest cough, kitchen clatter, the sizzle of frying steak, and jungle drums.  

Raymond Scott With Karloff — His Sound Effects Machine by Photographer UnknownThe Raymond Scott Archives

Raymond Scott Becomes the Orchestra Leader on the "Your Hit Parade" NBC TV show— Which Enabled Him to Fund His Electronic Music Research

Raymond Scott on the Lucky Strike Your Hit Parade set., From the collection of: The Raymond Scott Archives
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His brother Mark Warnow died suddenly in 1949; Scott succeeded him as orchestra leader on the CBS Radio show Your Hit Parade. During the following year, the show moved to NBC Television, and Scott continued to lead the orchestra until 1957. His second wife and protege, Dorothy Collins, was a featured singer on the show. The high-profile position paid well, but Scott considered it strictly a "rent gig" to finance his electronic music research.

The Clavivox—Raymond Scott's Keyboard Synthesizer

Photo of the Raymond Scott Clavivox from Promotional Flyer, From the collection of: The Raymond Scott Archives
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The Clavivox was a keyboard synthesizer that Scott patented in 1956, though he started work on it five years earlier when Carrie, his daughter with his first wife Pearl (they divorced in 1952), became enchanted with the theremin. “We had seen a Broadway play called Mrs. McThing, which used a theremin, and I loved the way it sounded. My dad bought me one, but I discovered I couldn’t play it. So, he took it back.” Ever the inventor, Scott decided to make a keyboard theremin that Carrie could play.

Young Bob Moog, From the collection of: The Raymond Scott Archives
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Scott enlisted young engineer Bob Moog and his father to provide an electronic sub-assembly from their theremin kit to use in his Clavivox. This was how Bob Moog and Scott met, which resulted in a decades-long professional and personal relationship. Moog credited Raymond Scott as a major influence on the development of his legendary first keyboard synthesizer. Scott's first Clavivox (which Carrie only had for a short while before her father took it back to continue development), allowed players to smoothly glide from note to note, without a break, over a three-octave keyboard. The machine could be played with an expressive portamento rather than with just discrete pitches.

Promotional photo of Raymond Scott with the Clavivox, From the collection of: The Raymond Scott Archives
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As Scott continued work on the Clavivox, subsequent improvements introduced staccato attacks, on/off vibrato toggling, and many other effects. It could also simulate the sounds of many traditional instruments. This level of configurability meant that the machine had evolved from a keyboard theremin into a keyboard synthesizer.

Clavivox Video Segment

Clavivox Video, From the collection of: The Raymond Scott Archives
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A short video about the development of the Clavivox, including a demo from an electronic music event at Lincoln Center in New York City. 

Clavivox Print Ad

Ad for Raymond Scott Clavivox, From the collection of: The Raymond Scott Archives
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Scott tried to market the Clavivox without any real success. Although he's been described as a genius by many, he's never been described as a marketing genius. Additionally, the Clavivox was notoriously hard to maintain and keep in tune 

The Wall of Sound—No, We're Not Talking About Phil Spector

"I remember seeing in Scott’s house a big room full of racks with telephone-type stepping relays, all hooked up to be a mechanical sequencer...He had rack upon rack of these stepping relays. You’d dial it and the relay would step through all the positions. He had these things hooked up to turn sounds on and off. This was a huge, electro-mechanical—sequencer, is what it was! And he had it programmed to produce all sorts of rhythmic patterns. This whole room would go 'clack-clack-clack-clack, clack-clack-clack-clack' and the sounds would come out all over the place.”
—Bob Moog interview on raymondscott.net

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The Wall of Sound--Click Above Link for Audio

In the mid-1950s, with his Hit Parade salary, Scott bought a 30 room mansion in Manhasset, NY. In that space he made some of his ambitious dreams a reality. He constructed a giant electronic music studio that, (years before Phil Spector) became known as the “Wall of Sound."

Raymod Scott's Wall of SoundThe Raymond Scott Archives

Raymod Scott's Wall of Sound, From the collection of: The Raymond Scott Archives
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In the mid-1950s, with his Hit Parade salary, Scott bought a 30 room mansion in Manhasset, NY. In that space he was able to make some of his ambitious dreams a reality. He constructed a giant electronic music studio that, (years before Phil Spector) became known as the “Wall of Sound,” in this case a physical wall. It could be used in many ways, one was its use as an instrument called The Rhythm Modulator.

Raymond Scott's Rhythm Modulator, From the collection of: The Raymond Scott Archives
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Raymond Scott's Rhythm Modulator—one of the few recordings of this early proto-sequencer that was part of Scott's "Wall of Sound." From the year 2000 electronic music album Manhattan Research 

Credits: Story

The Raymond Scott Archives channel — created & curated by Stan WarnowDeborah Scott Studebaker, and Jeff Winner.

Additional content from Corey Goldberg, Irwin Chusid, and Henry Studebaker.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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