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Tom And Jerry Music—Performed Live!

Tom And Jerry Music—Performed Live!

Many symphony
orchestras now play music from Hollywood’s golden age,  but none that I’m aware of has attempted to
perform Scott Bradley’s breakneck-paced scores for Tom and Jerry cartoons—until
now. I’m indebted to Rob Paquin for sending me the YouTube link to this
remarkable performance by the John Wilson Orchestra at London’s Royal Albert
Hall, as part of the BBC Proms concert series.

In his e-mail
Rob writes, “As you can hear from the full house audience, it was a great
success and long overdue. John Wilson has been painstakingly trying to restore
the original arrangements for classic scores. He is a big fan of MGM’s
distinctive musical sound when Conrad Salinger and Johnny Green were in charge
of the music department, and I think he comes incredibly close to capturing
that sound. I thought you would enjoy the link since you did so much in your
animation book Of Mice and Magic to
bring attention to Scott Bradley’s great contribution to the enjoyment of the
Tom and Jerry cartoons.”

Here’s this amazing segment.

 

Yes indeed.
Bradley has never gotten the same degree of attention as Carl Stalling, his counterpart
at Warner Bros., but he too was a superb musician with a wonderful sense of
humor. And like Stalling, he had free use of his studio’s song library, which
enabled him to integrate tunes like “You Were Meant For Me” and “The Trolley Song”
into his scores.

The unnamed
party who posted the Tom and Jerry link on YouTube writes, “Pete Morris, who
worked on the arrangement with John Wilson, on 4 September wrote the following
in response to questions about this video: ‘We wanted to create a score that
wasn’t too fragmented and that didn’t rely on visuals so the music you hear is
a compilation of some of the best bits of Scott Bradley’s music. There is no
single video for the music; it comes from eight different cartoons: Smitten Kitten, Sufferin’ Cats, The Framed
Cat, Cat Fishin’, Just Ducky, Jerry and Jumbo, The Cat Comes to Dinner and
Mouse for
Sale.

“On 8
September Pete Morris added, ‘John is a dab hand at reconstructing scores from
audio. Check his Wiki page for info. In this case, however, we used score
fragments, archives and a lot of patience. I used FCP to extract candidate
snippets of video and linked them to create 3 candidate narratives which John
and I then worked on. Copyright is a nightmare (MGM, Warner, Sony, Turner, EMI have all owned
bits in the past). Only JW has the clout to cut though that quagmire. Scores
are as rare as hens’ teeth.’”

If you like,
you can watch and listen to the entire concert (click HERE ),
which celebrates film music in fine fashion with compositions by Alfred Newman,
Max Steiner, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Bernard Herrmann, Miklos Rozsa, David
Raskin, Franz Waxman and others—even my great favorite Jerome Moross, whose great
score for The Big Country is included right alongside themes and suites from Street Scene, Citizen Kane, Ben-Hur, Psycho,
A Place in the Sun,
and more. At intermission, conductor John Wilson
discusses the program and his decision to include Scott Bradley (at the
51-minute mark).

Kudos are
also due to the BBC director who captures all the action of the percussionists
who get a real workout during the Tom and Jerry score, even hurling plates into
a metal garbage can. (Remember, when these shorts were originally scored, the
orchestra could stop and start; editing was definitely a convenience, even if
it was used sparingly.)

Wouldn’t it
be great to witness a performance like this in person?

 

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Comments

mike schlesinger

Lovely! Now dare we hope for a sequel featuring Bradley's even zanier music for Tex Avery's classics?

Peter Morris

Leonard, I'm so sorry! I was publicising the concert before it happened (I wrote to Dave Koch, Jerry Beck, Daniel Goldmark and a bunch of others) but completely forgot to write to you. Thank you for putting this article up on your blog.

The origin of the piece and my involvement is that I've known John Wilson for a few years, since we last talked about doing a Bradley piece. He rang me in June 2013 with his head spinning. He'd been watching too many T&J cartoon to try and find a good one that might be played in its entirety. He knows I've published on Bradley and know his works well. After 30 seconds, I knew that what we really needed was a suite, not a single cartoon. It was, therefore, a matter of designing a narrative that could be supported by original music so that it hung together in a 4-minute piece.

After I presented two candidates suites to John, he preferred the longer format and so the piece grew to 6'10", which you see in the video. As for the percussion section, I said in an email to John "I think your department of bangs, whizzes and bodily noises could do with a dustbin lid, some pipes, an anvil and so on. Would be wonderful to see them featured in comic roles." However, John took it to another level. I remember at rehearsal him saying, with a twinkle in his eye: "I need to go and talk to my percussion section".

Anyway I can answer questions from you and others if you have them.

Thanks again!

Pete Morris

Mark Kausler

I really enjoyed seeing and hearing this, thanks, Leonard! Of course, Scott Bradley only used 19 musicians in his orchestra, decrying Stalling's use of a larger group. He achieved a cross-section between a small 1940s Dorsey ensemble, and a symphony orchestra, with his deft use of strings and wind instruments, like flutes and horns. I got a cold chill when the flautist and oboists played a little of Jerry's theme, that's in my brain almost all the time. The sound effects were added on a separate track by the effects cutters, not usually performed at the same time as the music, but it works here, and the audience really loves it. My main problem is that the tempo lags a little bit here and there, Bradley usually used a 6 to 8 frame tempo on the fast stuff, and that's hard to perform for a large group not used to doing such quick changes. If you find any more live Bradley performances, please link to them!

Tony Caruana

I watched this when it was broadcast and I yelled out a cheer when the announcer mentioned Scott Bradley. What an evening that was.

DBenson

Great stuff. I've seen CDs of BBC Prom concerts; let's hope this makes one of them.

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