Wednesday, July 16, 2014

From Scott Bradley to Canned Music

Yes, this is a soundtrack to cartoons – to Tom and Jerry, to be specific – but it’s also the sound of pouring everything you’ve got into what you do.

Much like the more celebrated Carl Stalling, composer ScottBradley here pours his soul into the music he creates for these cartoons. The music easily becomes as essential a character as either Tom or Jerry – for which Bradley scored all but one cartoon between 1940 and 1958.

Maybe it’s better to describe the music as the characters’ shadow: frenetic when the characters are going crazy, serene when there’s a pause in the action. Par for the course, you’d say, right? Well, listen to what happened to Tom and Jerry when MGM dropped its music department:

It’s music like Bradley’s and Stallings’ that help make these cartoons what they are – and demonstrate what is missing in much short animated matter made after the studios let their composers and orchestras go to save money.

More importantly for me, Bradley’s music is a reminder that whatever you do, make sure it’s good. If National Novel Writing Month has taught me anything, it’s that I can indeed pound out a 50,000-word novel. But taking that novel and turning it into something to be proud of, well, that’s taking canned music and elevating it to the level of Bradley.

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