Sesame Street and the Chromatic Scale Jazz Soundtrack

Curator's Note

In considering the major differences between Chromatic, Diatonic, Jazz and Blues scales, and their use in portions of Children’s Television Workshop productions, it’s reasonable to note that New Orleans Jazz reminiscent renditions of the Alligator King, and the Ladybugs’ Picnic, it’s clear to see how Western diatonic scales descending note sequences still dominate this decade of production, even through a less-often aired sequence titled Martian Beauty, Number 9.

In early The Electric Company and Sesame Street iterations featuring the Pointer Sisters (Pinball Sequence), halftones arranged in an Acid Fusion Jazz sequences segue to steel drums, soprano saxophones, and other instruments with ranges that are known for inclusion in multi-tonal composition.

As is normative for Acid Jazz fusion composition from the 1920s forward, the soundtrack elements serve as a deconstruction of Western Civilization in a tradition hallmarked by known composers such as Schoenberg and Stravinsky, who were among the first modernists to compose these elements for cinema. 

Images edited to sequence with these jazz riffs are strangely tied to imagery where a king, a little girl, and ladybugs at a picnic couldn’t be provided with something reasonable to eat. A sequence featuring an African American mother and little girl with a grocery list featuring a gallon of milk, a stick of butter, and a loaf of bread often factored into the period’s show sequences on repeated segments, where a White girl’s mother or an alligator king with orange, Celtic looking hair could not understand the difference between cherries and rubies. These images, as a collected montage considered in the French Tradition, trend toward a very specific argument in their sequence when considered alongside Buffy St. Marie and her breastfeeding efforts, a chocolate chip addicted Cookie Monster, and Mr. Hooper’s store.

Sesame Street’s 1970s and 1980s latent visual rhetoric indicates that White, patriarchal systems of manufacture are simply not as trustworthy as mother’s down to the fly waiter Elmo, routinely denies or finds in his customer’s soup. Big Bird and his birdseed and breast milk as a natural phenomenon are clearly featured prominently as a historic Children’s Television Workshop authored television moment.

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