Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Doo-Dah, Doo-Dah

I was transferring my VHS copy of the 1956 Foghorn Leghorn/Daffy Duck crossover cartoon "The High and the Flighty" to disc (hopefully, this means that there will be some Foghorn Leghorn cartoons on DVD, since any time I spend time copying VHS to DVD, a commercial DVD comes along and makes my work irrelevant), and since the score of this cartoon was included on the second "Carl Stalling Project" CD, I decided to try synching up the isolated score with the picture.

This proved to be harder than I thought, because I had to adjust for the fact that the cartoon has shorter pauses between musical sections than the CD score does, and also the CD is missing a few sections of the score (and one scene was done without music, a scene with a fake train: Stalling scored almost every scene in a cartoon, but when it came to a train scene, he often let Treg Brown's sound effects stand alone). But while the synch isn't perfect, I did at least sort of manage to combine the portions of the score with the images the music was supposed to match. This is not the complete cartoon; if you want the complete cartoon, it's here.

Stalling's style was a little different at this time, near the end of his career, than it had been for most of his career. Even though it's a lighthearted comedy cartoon, the music is a little less brash and "cartoony" than usual for Stalling, with fewer song quotations than usual (except for "Camptown Races," but even that isn't used in the opening credits). Especially in cartoons from 1956-7, he seemed to use a style that was slightly more... not exactly advanced, it just sounds a bit more like a through-composed movie score than usual. He's still following the action, but trying a little more than before to integrate the action music into something resembling full-fledged musical phrases. Even in talky cartoons, where he once would just use a few strings or bare chords or a song to accompany dialogue, he now throws in some unusual (for him) harmonies and original melodies like the theme for Daffy in "Flighty."

Also, one thing that's become clear in listening to isolated scores from the mid-to-late '50s is that by this time the Warners cartoons did not have access to the size or quality of the orchestra they once had. The string section in particular sounds like it's smaller and scrawnier than it once was.

One thing that remained consistent: when a character sings, Stalling doesn't play the tune in the orchestra, instead playing an accompaniment or a countermelody to Blanc's singing.


Speedy Boris said...

While the orchestra -did- sound thinner by the mid '50s, I love the soundtracks during this era. Both Stalling and Franklyn seemed to take their focus away from cramming in as many popular songs as they could (though keep in mind I'm not saying I hate that style- far from it!) and instead sought to create recurring original melodies and unique arrangements.

For another favorite of mine from that era, look no further than Franklyn's "Red Riding Hoodwinked". Would it have the same charm if it were wall-to-wall with tunes from the '20s? Hard to say. But its original compositions gave what would've otherwise been an average cartoon a lot of personality, and as such it ended up being one of my favorite classic cartoon soundtracks ever. You can literally take any bit from the soundtrack and know what scene of the cartoon it is, which is the sign of a good score.

And of course, the soundtrack to "Birds Anonymous" is just brilliant.

John said...

Stalling's scores got 'lighter' along with the characters right through his entire career with the studio -- check out the deeper and more woodwind-based tones of his late 1930s cartoons (including the opening MM title music) compared with what he was using to accompany the cartoons by 1942, when the music was heavier on the strings and also at a higher octave.

His latter work, in tandem with Milt Franklyn, is even lighter as the UPA influence started to take hold, while at the same time being a bit of a compromise with Milt's earliest solo scores just prior to the studio's 3-D shutdown ("Drip Along Daffy", "Bugs & Thugs", "Devil May Hare") which are more subtile than the usual WB music, but in spots are so restrained as to almost just fade away. Franklyn's scores after that veered back more towards Stalling's normal work, while Carl moved a few steps in Milt's direction in being more subtile underneath the action.

Anonymous said...

nice job, Jaime.
Beautiful score.
I think I like Foghorn better without the dialog!

Tom Ruegger

Anonymous said...

any time I spend time copying VHS to DVD, a commercial DVD comes along and makes my work irrelevant

I wish you would copy Lili and The Uninvited to DVD. And also don't forget the Complete Laurel and Hardy.