The Similarities Between Classical Music and Ellington's Jazz

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One of the greatest tragedies in the 20th century can be seen in the debasing of the Jazz genre as a unworthy equal to it's predecessor, European Classical music. This can be seen in various statements about Jazz, such as Boris Gibalin commit, "The "Jazz Mania" has taken on the character of a lingering illness and must be cured by means of forceful intervention."1 This conflict can be traced through out the history of Jazz, as Classical composers have relatively disregarded this new type of music. Before Duke Ellington's Cotton Club performances, Jazz play on the radio was delegated for late night audience only. This sub-culture treatment has led many critics to disregard the Jazz movement as a dance craze, or unsuccessful recreations…show more content…
To most people the infusion of African tonality into Duke Ellington's music to create "Negro art", questions the connection between European music and Jazz. Here Constant Lambert responds to this.
"If anyone doubts the essential element of European sophistication in Jazz, it is a simple matter for his to compare a typical piece of Jazz, such as Duke Ellington Swampy River, first with a lyric by Grieg and then with a record of African music. It must be clear to even the most prejudiced listener that apart from a few rhythmical peculiarities the Ellington piece has far more in common with the music of Grieg"6

One must understand that even when Duke infused the two tonalities of music; he still was obligated to work within guidelines of the European Harmonic tradition.7 Yet by him keeping with this tradition he is not obligated to write music in the form of previous composers such as Stravinsky, Mozart, or Bach, for to do that would delegate Ellington's music as a duplicate work. Here is the contradiction, for no Classical composer has ever been chastise for creativity in their sound, and yet how do you explain the criticism of Ellington's work? The intentional fusing of African and European tonality is nothing more than a continuation of numerous inventive techniques used by musicians as seen in the changing sounds and techniques of Classical music over time? Thus to criticize Duke for his originality one would also have

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