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Countless millions have enjoyed the ‘Tom and Jerry’ and ‘Bugs Bunny’ cartoons but probably not many members of this massive audience will have shut their eyes while watching. If you do, you start to notice an aspect of these cartoons which contributes enormously to their impact but which has been largely ignored: the sound-track. The cartoon sound-track has long fascinated me. The juxtaposition of extreme contrasts, the frantic ‘chase’ music, the lightning changes of mood, the blend of sound effects and musical ideas: all these combine to form a garish style which must represent the highest possible tension between the demands of picture and of music.
‘Paws 3D’ started out as the score for an imaginary cartoon, and grew into an apotheosis of that eternal triangle, Tom, Jerry and the Canary. The score is full of frenetic chase sequences which spill over into dream sequences for each of the main characters: Tom dreams of swimming in the gold-fish pond, the mouse dreams of a heaven made of cheese, and the Canary dreams of the freedom of the garden. The work ends with a ‘Cartoon’ version of Scarlatti’s ‘Cat’s Fugue’.
But although the starting point for all these sections is an imaginary visual sequence, the music develops the style further into something ‘self-sufficient’, i.e. which makes musical sense in its own terms but which, hopefully, never loses the sense of fun, for player and for listener, of its much-loved Hollywood antecedents.
© 1984 Tim Souster
Commissioned by the Cambridgeshire County Youth Orchestra Association with funds provided by the Arts Council of Great Britain.
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