Duke Ellington: the Music, Politics, and His Story

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Duke Ellington: The Music, Politics, and his Story Duke Ellington was a musical and political genius; he was “America’s only original musical mind.” He was not only a performer, but a composer. He learned the craft of composing by observing others instead of disciplined study. One important factor of Ellington’s music was its relation to black heritage and African American history. His symphony “Black, Brown, and Beige” displayed the African American struggle in America. Not only did Ellington use his music to portray the struggle, voice, and triumph of black Americans, he used his professionalism, originality, persuasiveness, and political performances. Edward Kennedy Ellington was born in 1899 and composed, arranged, and…show more content…
When he wrote a composition, he did so with the characteristic sound of the soloist in mind. An example of a musician with a distinctive sound is Johnny Hodges. Johnny Hodges was a member of Duke’s orchestra who had “complete independence of expression”, Ellington said. Ellington also stated that Hodges was the only man he knew who could pick up a cold horn and still play in tune. The specific sound of the individual was so important to a piece that if a member was to leave, the composition would almost always be omitted. Solos were atypically transferred to another musician. When Ellington composed pieces, he only had his own band in mind. This is why his orchestra’s sound cannot be imitated without sounding watered down. The unique style and tone qualities of the individuals made the orchestra nearly impossible to replicate. One thing that was often misunderstood about Ellington’s career was that he had two of them: bandleader and composer. He was famous for recording his own compositions as well as endorsements. He often composed music all through the night, and it has been said that he never went a day without composing something, whether it be a couple lines of a song or an entire piece. He would write music whenever and wherever he had the time to do it. Once, he even had to write a piece by the light of his band manager consecutively lighting matches. Ellington believed that music allowed him to express himself without

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