Music From Warner Bros. Cartoons 1936-1958 (1990)
More Music From Warner Bros. Cartoons 1939-1957 (1995)
The Music That Subliminally Warped An Entire Generation of Kids
American kids of the 50s & 60s could hardly be expected to comprehend the musical chaos underscoring the talking ducks, wily rodents and dimwitted dogs that populated the world of Warner Bros. cartoons. If you’re of a certain age, Saturday mornings provided a steady, subliminal diet of mis-shaped modern composition and avant-garde orchestral music, courtesy of Warner’s house composer, Carl Stalling. Stalling’s genius was how he mixed his sometimes wildly careening orchestrations with recognizable classical cues and lighthearted adaptions of Americana song (e.g. “How Dry I Am”), creating a mashed-up pastiche of song & sound. All you need to do is listen – without the visuals – to hear how truly revolutionary Stalling’s work was; the plucked cellos that accompanied tiptoeing characters, the mad flurry of strings & woodwinds that signaled a frenzied dash and the sudden, violent outbursts of brass and percussion, now synonymous with a mallet in the face. Operatic show tunes, Parisian fanfares and hairpin tempo changes were all part of these live, real-time studio recordings. Without realizing it, we were all experiments in Warner’s own “Ludivico Technique” (HERE) – spellbound by the violent imagery while Stalling’s beautiful dissonance entered our brains via the soundtrack. No one’s been quite the same since. Is it possible that Stalling’s work subliminally introduced radical musical experimentation to the 1960s? Maybe. Guys like Frank Zappa and John Zorn have always admitted the direct lineage from Stalling’s work to their own. 50 to 70 years later, Stalling’s inventions are still profoundly subversive. Below, you can hear the 1955 Road Runner soundtrack, “Guided Muscle,” from Vol. 2. The great Hal Willner produces. Both CDs, Music From… (HERE) and More Music From… (HERE) are at Amazon.
Bonus: Thanks to Dinosaur Gardens for posting a rare Carl Stalling bonus track, “Stupor Duck,” which appeared only on the cassette version of the original 1990 release. Hear it above, get it in Comments.
Studio recordings of material that would appear on Broadway in the early ’90s. Most of these scores are newly recorded, spiced up with some familiar cartoon songs and original 50s dialog to give the entire program a big cartoony production (as if the music alone couldn’t). Milt Franklyn, who (righteously) succeeded Carl Stalling as Warner’s house composer, gets some due here alongside Carl’s work. The modern studio quality shines, though Hal Willner’s not on board this time. @Amazon, HERE.
Track Listings in Comments