Bugs Bunny, Tom and Jerry and other cartoon characters inspire ground-breaking work, Tunes for 'Toons, by Case's Daniel Goldmark
Like Tom and Jerry cartoon antics, Daniel Goldmark got a wham, bam punch of an idea when he had trouble guessing the scores accompanying the animated action of the mouse-cat duo during a "name that tune party."
As determined as Wile E. Coyote was to catch Roadrunner, Goldmark, Case Western Reserve University assistant professor of music, made a hot pursuit of animation music for his ground-breaking new book, Tunes for 'Toons: Music and the Hollywood Cartoon (University of California Press, 2005).
In Tunes for 'Toons, Goldmark examines cartoon music during its heyday from the 1930s to the 1950s when the film companies like MGM, Paramount and Warner Bros., had their own animation studios—and some like Warner Bros. had full-time orchestras.
To understand what motivated animation scoring, Goldmark focused on two of the most important individuals to influence animation music—Carl Stalling and Scott Bradley.
Stalling, who had his earliest professional musical experiences accompanying silent films, drew from popular, classical, folk and traditional music as well as original compositions.
Bradley differed from Stalling's approach. At the MGM studios, he started out composing music for the Happy Harmonies series. From the beginning of his career, he relied heavily on composing original music. As the primary composer for Tom and Jerry cartoons, Bradley's music had an important role in this animation series because the cartoons usually lacked dialogue. Music moved the action and carried the cartoon forward.
Bradley created techniques or "compelling relationships" to render sound to the action, approaches to composing that became known in film music circles as "mickey-mousing."
Creating animation scores were no simple feats. Music described not only action or moods but could reflect cultural stereotypes, such as how different ethnic groups were viewed by the society at large or classical music's place as a symbol of "highbrow" society. For example, when Stalling scored cartoons with such popularly recognized music as Rossini's William Tell overture, the sound did not connote an orchestral hall but a western by its popular association with the radio listeners, and later television viewers, of the Lone Ranger Show. That association still holds true for many today.
Unlike films where dialogue can move the viewer forward into the story line, cartoons have music from beginning to end to give them vitality, according to Goldmark. "Music can smooth the transition between something that never lived and the vibrancy of animation, helping to give it life." Music also is an important aural element in the mix of music, sound effects and voices. Whereas film might have long segments to convey one thought and dialogue to move it forward, Goldmark remarks that music plays a role in "telegraphing" ideas and emotions in the rapid-paced action where story lines develop in seconds rather than minutes.
"Stalling and Bradley became experts at getting those ideas across quickly," he said.
As a native of California, Goldmark lived just miles from the cartoon production hub of Warner Bros., MGM, Disney and Paramount Studios. At the age of 19 during his undergraduate years at the University of California Riverside, he launched his cartoon music research after gathering with friends for a cartoon music party. The UC undergraduate also worked as an archivist at Spümcø Animation in Hollywood that produced the Ren & Stimpy cartoon series. While completing his graduate degrees at the University of California at Los Angeles, he worked at Rhino Records, which produces reissued musical collections and boxed sets. While at Rhino Records, Goldmark worked on a collection of Warner Bros.'s cartoon music for That's All, Folks!
Goldmark's newest book is among a number of works he has written on cartoons. His first book (co-edited with Yuval Taylor), The Cartoon Music Book, was published in 2002 and is an anthology of readings on music and animation.
About Case Western Reserve University
Case is among the nation's leading research institutions. Founded in 1826 and shaped by the unique merger of the Case Institute of Technology and Western Reserve University, Case is distinguished by its strengths in education, research, service, and experiential learning. Located in Cleveland, Case offers nationally recognized programs in the Arts and Sciences, Dental Medicine, Engineering, Law, Management, Medicine, Nursing, and Social Work. http://www.case.edu.