sabato 19 settembre 2015

That's All Folks: The music by Carl Stalling first part

There is a composer we all know. We know him very well, since we were children and we present him, almost every day, to our children, almost unconsciously. He walks closet to us from several years, discreet, so impalpable as brilliant his music has been that we continue to listen to unconsciously and to whistled in every country, in every latitude, beyond all musical and cultural globalization. There is a music that we always like to listen to that always makes us smile because it anticipates a world of fantastic and brilliant schizophrenic characters: I think it’s less than ten seconds, and it is always the same one from sixty years, but I always enjoy it as the first time. It’s the intro music opening the Warner Bros’ cartoons and I’m sure it’s already bouncing in your heads.
This music is by Carl Stalling (1891-1972), a brilliant american composer who has linked his name almost only to cartoons soundracks: first with Walt Disney, for only two years at the beginning of the soundtrack era, and then with the gold season of RoadRunner, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, all the crazy looney gang that we all know (one of the reasons why I think we lucky lucky to live in these times).
Born in the small town of Lexington, Missouri, the young Stalling got his first contact with music playing an old piano toy. In 1903, at the tender age of 5 years, he saw "the Great train Robbery" in a tent and from then he was determined as his own words show "to be close to the world of films in every way and any cost ". Seven years later he became the pianist of the local films’ producer in his city, in an old bulding with a designer only, in which Stalling played during the changing of film also. In the early'20s, Stalling directed his orchestra and improvised on Iris Theater’s organ in Kansas City where he met Walt Disney that decided to order him two pieces for two short Mickey Mouse’s movies, a character who at those times had appeared only in a previous cartoon.
In Hollywood, at Disney’s studio recently built, Stalling gave birth to a cinematic revolution giving the breath of life to inanimate characters through his music. In this sense Stalling was one of the most revolutionary and visionary authors in American music, especially if one considers his time’s design . Following the logical view of the action on screen rather than the traditional musicale rules and formal metrics (development, theme and variations, etc..) Stalling managed to create a composition entirely based on the flow of images on the screen, for the fist time in music history.
At first listen, Stalling’s immense musical talent impresses with its traumatic capacity (taken and developed by John Zorn) to resume and mix together different and heterogeneous musical elements interrupting the flow of music with constant changes and changes of direction, through a constantly changing kaleidoscope of different styles, forms, melodies, quotations, pieces for piano for silent movies in Kansas City elevating them to a science value with Disney and to an artistic performance with Warner Bros.
Stalling’s results become even more impressive if you consider that its songs played against everything that was happening in the music of that era, the years between'30 and'40, just think names that filled those years:
  • Copland, 
  • Cage begins to explore the possibilities of the piano’s sound, 
  • the music of Satie, 
  • Harry Partch’s music built with his own tools based on his opwn pitch theory, 
  • the balanced improvisations of Ellington and his compositions based on the swing, 
  • the be-bop of Charlie Panker and Dizzy Gillespie
  • E. Varese.
It was a period ruled by the American conservative Impressionism pervaded by the desire to search for new sources and Stalling was without doubt one of the most extremist composers of the period. A pioneer who made us walking gently, with the innocence and lightness of cartoons, thorough a new fantastic universe, pervaded by all possible humor to the most subtle, shocking and exaggerated musical effects. A world where Willie the Coyote tries to get the evil RoadRunner, defying all physic’s laws, where Bugs Bunny terrorises the poor Taddeo with surreal sadism and the nevrotic Daffy Duck tries to catch Speedy Gonzales, the fastest mouse of Messico.
Disney and Iwerks idea was to modify old products and launching them through the new soundtrack tecnology: so Oswald The Lucky Rabbit was turned into Mickey Mouse, allowing him the use of the voice on 18 November 1928. At this time Stalling was working behind the scenes giving his fundamental contribution creating the music for the old Disney’s cartoons and it seems that in a couple of occasions he was even the voice of Mickey Mouse. Thank to him "Silly Simphonies" were born, some particularly cured animations in which music played a prominent role, as in the exceptional "Skeleton Dance": the cartoon shows the midnight concert of a group of skeletons in a cemetery.

Second Part
Third part

to be continued...

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