Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Hot off the Press...

Wolfram Knauer's "Duke Ellington" (in German) describes (this the blurb of the publisher) "the composer, pianist and bandleader Duke Ellington as a unifying figure in jazz. Musicians of all decades, all styles, all artistic directions seem to be able to identify with his musical aesthetic. Knauer listens to Ellington's recordings and recounts his biography by answering questions raised by his aesthetic decisions, thus tracing the straightforward career of an artist who knew that part of his magic was to collect and assemble his music out of the many different voices in his orchestra. Knauer's vivid way of writing and his knowledge about Ellington, his life, the economic and social context of his creative work gives insights into why Ellington took the directions he took and lets the reader understand the motivation behind the different stages of his career." --- Or, in Knauer's own words, "What I tried to do in the book was literally: listen to the music and constantly ask, why did Ellington write, play, think like he did at that particular time. What made him make aesthetic or musical decisions, where are the experiments which he is trying out leading, when and why did he choose to redirect his path, why does his music in different decades sound differently and how should one approach these different parts of his career in order to fairly write about (or listen to) his music? As I write in my foreword, my framing approach was a little unusual but very rewarding: I went into the Ellington archives at the Smithsonian Institution before I even wrote a single word, having them bring me boxes I chose out of curiosity more than because I had a specific interest in their content, hoping that what was in them might pose some of the questions I might want to answer in my book (after all, hasn't *everything* been written already?!?). After that I started listening to, it feels like, everything and constantly asked, "Why?" and "What" more than "Who?" and "Where or When?". That led to contextualizing his life, his compositional process, the idea of composition in jazz in general, his interaction with his band members as well as with other musicians, his private life, his business affairs, and - most of all - his recordings. When I was done with the rough manuscript, I returned to the Ellington archives with very specific questions, had them bring me mostly music manuscripts and studied his composition notes, his score sketches, the parts, to get an idea of what exactly is in the notation and where the magic happens to make it all come alive and become so personal. I believe that my approach is different from most books previously written about Ellington, and I do hope to see it being translated into English eventually. But at this point there is only the German edition, published by one of the most renowned German presses, Reclam." ( ReclamAmazon )

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