Happy harmonies and disturbing discords: Scott Bradley's music for MGM's cartoons

Alexander, Helen (2015) Happy harmonies and disturbing discords: Scott Bradley's music for MGM's cartoons. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Printed Thesis Information: https://eleanor.lib.gla.ac.uk/record=b3131462


The musical scores of composer Scott Bradley for the cartoons of the Metro- Goldwyn-Mayer studio form the basis of this dissertation, which uses close observation and analysis to address some of the pertinent technical and cultural issues that have been raised in the literature of musicology and of cartoon studies. Bradley’s collaborations with three sets of directors are discussed separately in order to highlight three academic concerns.

An investigation into the various practical necessities and cultural influences on Bradley’s work with directors Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising sets the historical scene at the beginning of the composer’s career. I examine the pervading style of these cartoons and their music in order to reveal some of the personal preoccupations that Bradley’s work would exhibit throughout his life. And I interrogate the general musicological approach to the audiovisual pairing and cartoon scoring practices in order to re-evaluate close synchronization as a variegated technique capable of diverse and nuanced effects.

Director Tex Avery and Bradley have independently been considered by various scholars for their adoption of modernist techniques. Their collaboration produced works that challenge the distinction of popular entertainment and modernist art, in a way that is shown to be both multifaceted and difficult to quantify. The position of their cartoons in terms of more frequently recognized modern artforms and its own tradition of slapstick comedy complicate any simple distinction between the two fields.

The directorial team of William Hanna and Joseph Barbera produced cartoons that amalgamated some of the techniques learned from the other animators in this study. As well as being the most famous of MGM’s cartoon series, their Tom and Jerry cartoons were the most consistent in terms of style. The comic formula of this series is examined from the relatively new academic area of ‘comic timing’. I explore the possible effect of a constant musical presence on the audience perception of pacing and thereby add a new perspective to an aspect of comedy that has not before been considered with reference to music.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Music, comedy, humour, moving image, film, animation, cartoons, cinema, comic timing, Metro Goldwyn Mayer, MGM, Scott Bradley, Hugh Harman, Rudolf Ising, Tex Avery, William Hanna, Joseph Barbera, Tom and Jerry, Screwy Squirrel, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, America, synchronization, avant garde, modernism,
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1993 Motion Pictures
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Culture and Creative Arts > Music
Supervisor's Name: Code, Dr. David and Butt, Professor John
Date of Award: 2015
Depositing User: Mrs Helen Alexander
Unique ID: glathesis:2015-6809
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 09 Nov 2015 13:56
Last Modified: 29 Oct 2018 11:41
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/6809

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