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Recording the Score to "The Cat in the Hat"
November 2003
Dan Higgins

Gary Grant and Dan

Composer David Newman called me and asked me if I had ever done any work making "new" instruments that may be of use in his score to motion picture "The Cat in the Hat". I replied I had experimented with odd instruments with my good friend and instrument repairman Rheuben Allen. I then proceeded to work on two instruments with the creative and technical help of Rheuben designing these "Cat" horns. From Rheuben's repair shop we began to collect pieces and parts from instruments to begin our construction. It proved to be a difficult task to come up with a playable instrument that made a sound befitting the Dr. Seuss characters. After hours of experimentation Rheuben and I came up with the two final versions of our new Seussaphone instruments.

Dan and MartyThe higher "Cat Sax" was constructed from a short alto sax neck and the tube of an alto saxophone. The bell was from a small baritone horn, which was fitted to the base of the alto body making the bell turn outward similar to a large saxello. Because of the shorter neck and large horn bell the instrument played a bit sharp and had a blaring brass quality as well as a reed sound. To distort the tone further I placed a small microphone on the bell and added a 3-inch speaker to the bell to add a "low-fi" element to the tone. David also suggested that I play the instrument through a child's voice changer further distorting the sound with this megaphone octave effect. Because the instrument had no bow it was necessary to play middle D and D# with palm keys. This made for some comical performances and further skewed tones.

Dan Playing Bass Cat HornThe second instrument developed for this movie was the "Bass Sax Cat". This was a tenor saxophone neck into a metal bass clarinet body ending in a French horn bell, which rested on the floor. Because of the odd combination using the tenor neck, this instrument actually played in concert. However, as I played higher the tuning scale required new fingerings. About every octave it was necessary to play one half step higher to acquire the correct pitch. (Or near!) This instrument had a kazooish comical quality, which changed color in the different ranges. I used a rubber tenor mouthpiece on this horn.

Trumpeter Gary Grant was also involved by playing his pocket trumpet (plus attachments) into a high-powered fan. The score to this movie is marvelous and it was my pleasure to be part of such fun and humorous affair.

To find other articles written by Dan for this web site, please visit his Archives.


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