04/30/14 Intersections of Classical and Jazz

“There are two kinds of music. Good music, and the other kind.”
– Duke Ellington

– Jazz and Classical musicians have influenced and interacted with each other ever since jazz became widely known in the early 20th century
– Many classical composers have incorporated elements of jazz into their compositions
– Many jazz musicians have composed and/or performed classical pieces
– Composer and conductor Gunther Schuller coined the term “Third Stream” to describe a musical genre that is a synthesis of classical music and jazz, but the term didn’t catch on.

220px-GrantstillWilliam Grant Still, 1895-1978
– African-American classical composer who wrote more than 150 compositions. Often referred to as “the Dean” of African-American composers.
– First African-American to:
– Conduct a major American symphony orchestra
– Have a symphony performed by a leading orchestra
– Have an opera performed by a major opera company
– Have an opera performed on national television
– Worked as an arranger of jazz, gospel and other popular music for radio and television shows

Boogie Woogie bass line:

Suite for Violin and Piano, 3rd movement

Inspired by Gamin, a sculpture by Augusta Savage
Savage Gamin

Symphony No. 1 “Afro-American”
Combines a traditional symphonic form with elements of jazz, blues and spirituals.

St. Louis Blues
Bessie Smith, vocals; Louis Armstrong, trumpet

Still’s Symphony No. 1: 1st movement uses 12-bar blues progression:

Spiritual: “Sometimes I feel like a motherless child”
Marian Anderson, vocals
(By the way, Anderson was the first black singer to perform at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, in 1955)

2nd movement evokes the sound of a spiritual

Inspired by a poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906), the first African-American poet to earn nation-wide distinction and acceptance:

It’s moughty tiahsome layin’ ‘roun’
Dis sorer-laden erfly groun’,
An’ oftentimes I thinks, thinks I,
‘T would be a sweet t’ing des to die,
An go ‘long home.

220px-George_Gershwin_1937George Gershwin, 1898-1937
– Composer and pianist who wrote many popular songs, often collaborating with his brother Ira Gershwin, who wrote the lyrics
– George and Ira wrote songs for many Broadway musicals. The musicals didn’t last long, but many of their songs became “standards” for jazz musicians

Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong – Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off

– Asked for lessons from classical composition teachers, but they declined to teach him because they didn’t want to dilute his style. Arnold Schoenberg said, “I would only make you a bad Schoenberg, and you’re such a good Gershwin already.” (But Gershwin and Schoenberg did play tennis together.)

– Wrote Rhapsody in Blue in 1924 for piano and jazz band, later arranged for orchestra
– Established Gershwin’s reputation as a serious composer and has since become one of the most popular of all American concert works

(Famous moments at 4:27 & 8:25)

Stravinsky: Ebony Concerto, written in 1945 for clarinetist Woody Herman

Milton Babbitt, All Set, 1957: combines 12-tone composition techniques with jazz instrumentation and rhythms

Billie Holiday, 1915-1959, vocalist
– Pioneered a new way of manipulating phrasing and tempo in her singing: very rhythmically flexible, often sings behind the beat

Lover Man

Miles Davis, 1926-1991, trumpeter
Cool Jazz: relaxed tempos and lighter tone

“Folk Opera:” Porgy and Bess, by George Gershwin

Your book, p. 291-292: “Gershwin’s most ambitious attempt at bringing jazz into the art tradition, and perhaps his masterpiece, is Porgy and Bess. The composer called it a folk opera, purposefully juxtaposing two concepts that had previously been understood as incompatible. The story is set in a South Carolina tenement, and puts an African American spin on long-standing operatic topics of love and betrayal… Gershwin insisted that the entire cast should consist of classically trained black singers—a controversial decision, but one that he felt would both provide opportunity for undervalued performers and ensure that the interpretation would be as authentic as possible.

“Summertime”: Aria from Porgy and Bess

And the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’
And the cotton is high

Your daddy’s rich
And your mamma’s good lookin’
So hush little baby
Don’t you cry

One of these mornings
You’re going to rise up singing
Then you’ll spread your wings
And you’ll take to the sky

But till that morning
There’s a’nothing can harm you
With daddy and mamma standing by

Louis & Ella’s version: