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Cartoon Culture

Listen to This Tom and Jerry Music Performed Like You’ve Never Heard Before

This joyously energetic medley of Tom and Jerry music composed by the legendary Scott Bradley was performed recently by the John Wilson Orchestra as part of the 2013 BBC Proms at London’s Royal Albert Hall.

Peter Morris, who arranged the performance with Wilson, has written extensively about the work:

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.

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 a 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.

Bradley’s original scores were played by typically 20 to 25 musos. In fact, if you look at the beginning of the performance there are only 3 violins, 1 viola, 1 cello and 1 bass, to start with the original MGM sound. However, more instruments are added as the piece progresses to the full 100-piece orchestra at the end. Scott Bradley also preferred orchestral sound effects to ones added by the sound department, hence the big “shock chords” that you find at various places.

  • Mr. James

    Thank you for posting this. I would purchase an entire album of songs scored and orchestrated like this. Anyone have any ideas if there are any albums like this?

  • Adam Buritsch

    How cool, I’ve always wanted to see this! The music during that era was so imaginative and continues to define how I view the 1940’s ‘golden era’. The choreography of the imagery and the music was just so tight.

  • jhalpernkitcat

    That looked like so much fun. They did a great job replicating the music. Loved those plates getting smashed into the trash cans. That guy doing all the sound effects looked like he was having a blast.

  • Shazbot

    Sounds like Tom and Jerry meet George Gershwin – or maybe Tom and Jerry VS. George Gershwin. In any case, it’s terrific!

    • Snootchins

      actually Rhapsody in Blue was using in an episode or two now that you mention it.

    • Brad Kay

      Yes, Gershwin, absolutely. The overall scoring is highly reminiscent of “An American in Paris,” especially at ca. 1:47, when we hear a direct quote of the Parisian auto horns. This is such delightful, witty, accomplished music, made to the highest degree of craft excellence. Amazing that all these intricate scores probably were finished under a very tight deadline. Scott Bradley (and Carl Stalling) should be at least as famous as Steiner, Korngold, Tiomkin and the other great film composers. Did Scott Bradley do any serious concert orchestral works? Or was he chained to his desk at the MGM animation department?

      • Brad Kay

        P.S. The lead trumpet player who does the hard-core Harry James swing parts is my new hero; and I’m in love with the blonde girl in the violin section who tears into her part with such wide-eyed enthusiasm!

        • Pete Morris

          The violist of whom you speak is Ruth Rogers. Lovely!

          • Brad Shue

            She is beautiful and plays so wonderfully with such enthusiasm. You can see her smile right before the ‘crazy’ parts because she knows they are coming.

          • Brad Kay

            Well, tell Ruth that her fan base now extends to Venice, California, and if she ever wants to make some horrible music together on the west edge of America, I am, pianistically speaking, like totally game. Sensational work, Pete.

  • Tim Hodge

    Incredible and so much fun. Between Bradley and Stalling, the bar was set extremely high very early on for comedic scores. Arguably, only Randy Newman has come close to creating such signature work for animation.

  • Draw_John

    Holy smokes…that’s awesome!

  • devnull

    All of this and they didn’t play “Is you is, or is you ain’t my baby”?

    • Pete Morris

      I know, I know. . . I felt that IS YOU IS really needed the lyrics – more so than YOU WERE MEANT FOR ME or THE TOLLEY SONG so I rejected it, since this suite was for orchestra only. John originally wanted only 4 minutes but we were able to get a much better 6’10” set together and it could easily have been longer still. Better to leave ’em wanting more, methinks. . .

  • Trevour

    I welled up a bit when the full orchestra played at the very end. Amazement!

  • Alex Dudley

    As a fan of Tom and Jerry, this was simply amazing!

  • I actually teared up from this wonderful piece, Truly amazing!//

  • Anon

    I never really imagined how difficult this must be to play in orchestra until now… o_o

  • Jeremy Atkinson

    cartoons certainly have gotten bad, losing real music not originating from a computer…. and having the ability to entertain for decades, without any talking!

  • Karen H

    Nice to see and hear that Scott Bradley is appreciated.
    Good job!!! Thank you.
    Karen H

  • Bhagyasree Nagarajan

    Bloody hell! It’s absolutely crazy goosebump-creating good! I mean I was pretty much bouncing on the seat the whole time and I might have actually welled up a tad in the end! Ace!

    • Pete Morris

      I know what you mean. I was at the Royal Albert Hall for the performance and I wept throughout the final minute. Hearing Bradley’s music performed so well and having been a part of it made me lose my composure completely.

  • seanjean Carl Stalling. Play this CD, immediately know which cartoon its for. It’s amazing

  • Pete Morris

    Hi Amid, thanks for posting the link. I can’t tell you how pleased I was to be asked to put the compilation together for John. Two months of bliss, auditioning candidate clips, editing material down and then hearing the music in rehearsal for the first time. As for the various comments, it’s obvious you all love Bradley’s music as much as I do. It’s weird that someone whose music is so well known (couple of billion people maybe?) should be so little known himself.

    • Supervisor194

      ” It’s weird that someone whose music is so well known (couple of billion people maybe?) should be so little known himself.”

      Yeah, I’ve been saying that for years. I love Carl Stalling but Bradley was a different thing. A whole musical vocabulary for the zaniness in those toons. For years couldn’t find anything on him. Really great arrangement. So, you did this Pete? Really well done. I can just imagine the work that went into it.

      And hey, let me say again, as someone else above said, that lead trumpeter was/is the man! Really good job of playing in that style.

      • Pete Morris

        Yes, I much prefer Bradley to Stalling. Mind you, Stalling was hampered by cartoon characters that talked all the time. Bugs was the wise-cracking cartoon embodiment of WC Fields and the music just had to make way all the time. It wasn’t until the Road Runner cartoons that WB had a chase vehicle, giving more scope for the music. However, Stalling couldn’t manage the magic of Bradley, even when given space.

        I think Stalling has had a lot more exposure because WB have been better at marketing and because of the great work done by Daniel Goldmark (check out his books on cartoon music if you want more on the genre, including some background on Bradley).

        By the way, the lead trumpet is Mike Lovatt – indeed a legend in the lead world.

  • LMC

    Magnificent….simply a joy to behold. Thank you!

  • Supervisor194

    One of the favorite things I’ve seen in a while. Incredibly difficult music to pull off. Great performance and arrangement. Makes you really appreciate those old guys doing it and this group really copped the style well. Scott Bradley getting his due now. Yay.

  • Larry

    Fabulous! Brilliant music splendidly played, captured by excellently timed camera work. Congratulations from across the pond.

  • Bobb Edwards

    Absolutely glorious. Pete Morris and John Wilson have done Scott Bradley’s neglected art a great service. I’ve noted this performance in Bradley’s Wiki article and in a new biographical sketch I wrote for him on the Find A Grave website. Let’s hope “Tom and Jerry at MGM” becomes a Pops repertory item and is performed in the US soon.

    This video sent me on a YouTube quest (still ongoing) to revisit the old MGM cartoons I loved as a kid, and it’s great fun discovering how inventive a musician Bradley was. Just watched the Tex Avery short “King-Size Canary” (1947). During the climactic chase scene – all of 16 seconds – Bradley rips through a French can-can, “Yankee Doodle”, “Dixie”, “Columbia, Gem of the Ocean”, “The Irish Washerwoman”, “La Marseillaise”, and “Marching Through Georgia” like Charles Ives on meth, ending on a discreetly sour note. “Saturday Evening Puss” (1950) features the earliest electric guitar solo I’ve heard in a Hollywood film. The “Evil Jerry” theme in “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Mouse” (1947) is genuinely menacing and deliberately stupid (and funny). Each cartoon seems to have its own little musical rewards. With so many riches to choose from it must’ve been a challenge to narrow down the most representative bits into a cohesive concert piece – one that was accomplished beautifully.

  • C brown

    Actually I thought this should have been appropriately titled ” rhapsody in black and blue”