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The Ellington Centuryby David Schiff
Synopses & Reviews
The Ellington Century is a wonderful journey through the world of music and art. If you are already an aficionado of Ellington's music, you will enjoy the author's informative and detailed analysis of the composer's work and musical influences. If you are less familiar, this book puts Ellington's music in perspective with the great classical composers of the twentieth century. David Schiff's remarkable insight into the historical and musical parallels between these composers is a delight to read and his references are vast, from Schoenbergs Pierrot Lunaire and Stravinskys Agon to televisions Sesame Street. Schiff writes with a sense of humor and an enthusiasm for Ellington's music that comes out on every page.”—George Manahan, Music Director, American Composers Orchestra
David Schiff points us forward, observing that Ellingtons music asks us to see with our ears and hear with our eyes. Writing as a composer and scholar, he has a gift for making complex ideas strikingly clear. His insights move across a huge terrain of twentieth-century culture, as he builds bridges in his musical and cultural analysis where many have not seen a connection. Yet each musical work, each artist, is given his or her equal due. In this sense, he has met the spiritual and cultural challenge of Ellingtons life work.”—Marty Ehrlich, Composer/Instrumentalist, Associate Professor of Improvisation and Contemporary Music, Hampshire College
"Esteemed composer and musician Schiff (George Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue) flexes his authorial muscles once again with a self-confessed 'bundle of love letters' to the late, great jazz pianist and big band leader Duke Ellington. In true jazz fashion, Schiff exults, 'I allowed myself to be disorderly and intuitive, as if I were improvising.' But Schiff is nevertheless rather methodical in walking the reader through Ellington's groundbreaking sound — counting bars, tapping tempos, expounding on transitions, and always reveling in the music. A gifted painter in his youth and an artist in every sense, 'Ellington called many of his compositions Ã¢Â€Â˜tone parallels' or Ã¢Â€Â˜portraits'; his music linked sounds and images.' Schiff compliments this notion with quotations from Copland, Schoenberg, Rilke, Rimbaud, and Zola to contextualize and highlight the 'complex web of sensory associations' and ultimately conceive a 'jazz panorama' made up of the technical elements of Ellington's unique style. Dissecting the form of perhaps his most famous 'mood' composition, 'Mood Indigo,' Schiff addresses the 'syntax' and 'imagery' of the piece; evoking 'love, tears, the railway.' Always musically rather than autobiographically focused (even links to Kandinsky are made on artistic terms, not social), Schiff plainly argues the accessibility of Ellington's 'Symbolist aesthetic.' Drawing parallels with the sophisticated, calculated compositions of Debussy, while still acknowledging the juxtaposition of improvisation and 'Arcane modernism,' Schiff's ode to Ellington is a joy. (Feb.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Virginia Woolf famously claimed that, around December 1910, human character changed. Aesthetic Technologies addresses how music (especially opera), the phonograph, and film served as cultural agents facilitating the many extraordinary social, artistic, and cultural shifts that characterized the new century and much of what followed long thereafter, even to the present. Three tropes are central: the tensions and traumasand#151;cultural, social, and personaland#151;associated with modernity; changes in human subjectivity and its engagement and representation in music and film; and the more general societal impact of modern media, sound recording (the development of the phonograph in particular), and the critical role played by early-century opera recording. A principal focus of the book is the conflicted relationship in Western modernity to nature, particularly as nature is perceived in opposition to culture and articulated through music, film, and sound as agents of fundamental, sometimes shocking transformation. The book considers the sound/vision world of modernity filtered through the lens of aesthetic modernism and rapid technological change, and the impact of both, experienced with the prescient sense that there could be no turning back.
Breaking down walls between genres that are usually discussed separately—classical, jazz, and popular—this highly engaging book offers a compelling new integrated view of twentieth-century music. Placing Duke Ellington (18991974) at the center of the story, David Schiff explores music written during the composers lifetime in terms of broad ideas such as rhythm, melody, and harmony. He shows how composers and performers across genres shared the common pursuit of representing the rapidly changing conditions of modern life. The Ellington Century demonstrates how Duke Ellingtons music is as vital to musical modernism as anything by Stravinsky, more influential than anything by Schoenberg, and has had a lasting impact on jazz and pop that reaches from Gershwin to contemporary R&B.
About the Author
David Alan Schiff is R.P. Wollenberg Professor of Music at Reed College. He is a composer, journalist whose articles have appeared in publications including the New York Times and the Atlantic, and the author of George Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue and The Music of Elliot Carter.
Table of Contents
Part I: Overture: Such Sweet Thunder
1. Blue Light”: Color
2. Cotton Tail”: Rhythm
3. Prelude to a Kiss”: Melody
4. Satin Doll”: Harmony
Part II: Entracte: Sepia Panorama”
5. Warm Valley”: Love
6. Black, Brown and Beige: History
7. Heaven”: God
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