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Dvorák to Duke EllingtonA Conductor Rediscovers America's Music and Its African-American Roots$
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Maurice Peress

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780195098228

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195098228.001.0001

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Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue

Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue

Chapter:
(p.83) 10 Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue
Source:
Dvorák to Duke Ellington
Author(s):

Maurice Peress

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195098228.003.0011

This chapter re-examines the circumstances and events leading up to Paul Whiteman's celebrated historic Aeolian Hall “Experiment in Modern Music”, at which was premiered Gershwin's seminal jazz inspired work, the “Rhapsody in Blue”. The public and most critics were ecstatic; the chapter offers insights as to why some euro-centric music critics remained deeply divided for generations. It then details Whiteman's respect and passion for jazz, and for Ellington; and the role of skilled arrangers. The challenges faced by the author in recreating the Aeolian Hall event “same day, same hour, same block, sixty years later”, are described. Sleuthing out the scores and parts; assembling a replica band that included several unusual instruments such as hecklephone, sopranino saxophone, a serious slide whistle and 1920's drum kit; and relearning how to play ragtime style are explained. The recreated concert sets off a media storm, triumph and is repeated in cities elsewhere starting in Rome, Italy. The chapter finishes with a rethinking of the whole event as but a part of a very rich and textured American music story.

Keywords:   ragtime, Aeolian Hall, Paul Whiteman, sopranino saxophone, hecklephone, Rhapsody in Blue

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