Trevis Rothwell's weblog

Almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea

The Return of Something for Cat

23 December 2020

I had recently heard a well-respected multimedia composer state that one of my personal favorite genres of music, what you might describe as 1960’s easy listening light big band jazz, a la Henry Mancini or Neil Hefti, was really no longer commercially desirable.

But just this month, I heard on two separate commercials, Mancini’s track *Something for Cat* from the *Breakfast at Tiffany’s* soundtrack. Perhaps this style is making a bit of a comeback?

Even if not, style aside, *Something for Cat* is a fine example of one of the main features of much commercial / library music today: very minimal melody, with an arrangement that builds, adding a new component, every few measures. Let’s take a listen:

Today’s most typical commercial guidance is to add a new musical element every four measures; here, depending on how you are counting the time, Mancini is adding a new element every eight measures:

  • Eight measures of percussion and low horns
  • Eight measures of adding a low sax riff
  • Eight measures of adding a high muted trumpet riff
  • Eight measures almost the same as the previous, but building the intensity of the drums/percussion

None of this is especially melodic, and thus none of it would especially interfere with on-screen dialogue or narration. In other words, great background underscore music.

After those opening 32 measures, Mancini then goes into a short “B” section of the song, a little bit more melodic, but still reasonably containable in the background.

Past that, the piece goes into various jazz solos, and becomes less generally desirable as multi-purpose commercial library music. It may well work in a particular setting, but such virtuosic lead lines are prone to conflicting with dialogue. When producing modern commercial library music, there is nothing wrong with including such passages, but you would probably want to also provide variations without the soloing.

Even so, the core essence of the track bears much structural resemblance to the commercial music today. And whether if we are seeing a big return to 1960s jazz stylings or not, it’s nice to hear this track getting some fresh air time!