Dissertation Index

Author: LaCour, Darren A.

Title: The Long-Playing Ellington: Analyzing Composition and Collaboration in the Duke Ellington Orchestra

Institution: Washington University in St. Louis

Begun: June 2015

Completed: April 2016


This dissertation examines four albums released by Duke Ellington and His Orchestra in the LP era, highlighting the intertwined roles composition and collaboration play in the realization of the sonic products. The first chapter analyzes 1951’s Masterpieces by Ellington, the band’s first 12-inch LP and one of the first jazz albums to explore the possibilities of the long-playing record as a medium. I balance discussion of Ellington’s compositional techniques in The Tattooed Bride, an eleven-minute concert work, with an examination of interaction as it occurs on the extended arrangements of three standards that constitute the album’s remaining tracks. Chapter 2 considers Duke Ellington, His Piano, and His Orchestra at the Bal Masque, a 1959 concept album that depicts the Ellington band in the guise of a supper-club orchestra. I look at Ellington and Billy Strayhorn’s arrangements of the preexisting material for insights into their creative process while also looking at the role of three other collaborators: Dick Vance, an outside arranger contracted for three arrangements on the album; Columbia records producer Irving Townsend, who splices fake applause at the beginning and end of each track to simulate a live recording; and the intended audience, who can choose whether or not to imaginatively engage with the album’s simulated concert concept. In Chapter 3, I address The Ellington Suites, a 1976 posthumous release of pieces Ellington wrote to commemorate different people and places. After a detailed discussion of Ellington’s treatment of compositional parameters in The Queen’s Suite, I provide a comprehensive history and analysis of Ellington’s place-themed suites, offering a way of using place to hear these pieces as collaborations with members of his orchestra. In the final chapter, I focus on two multimedia collaborations for which Ellington provided the scores: an unfinished documentary film by Sam Shaw on Edgar Degas and a successful ballet choreographed by Alvin Ailey. The last chapter in particular reveals Ellington’s reliance on recording technology as a compositional practice, using tape as a sketchbook to work out, develop, and preserve ideas. Though composition and collaboration may seem opposed, they are reciprocal trajectories in addressing the music of Duke Ellington and His Orchestra.

Keywords: Ellington, Strayhorn, jazz, analysis, collaboration, recording, interaction, composition, place, arranging



Chapter 1: Masterpieces By Ellington
1.1 Introduction
1.2 Collaboration In “Mood Indigo,” “Sophisticated Lady,” And “Solitude”
1.3 Composition of The Tattooed Bride
1.4 Conclusion

Chapter 2: Duke Ellington, His Piano, And His Orchestra At The Bal Masque
2.1 Introduction
2.2 Arranging as Composition
2.3 Collaborators
2.4 Conclusion

Chapter 3: The Ellington Suites
3.1 Introduction
3.2 Composition in Miniatures
3.3 Collaboration by Way of History and Place
3.4 Conclusion

Chapter 4: The Private Collection, Volume Five: The Suites (New York, 1968&1970)
4.1 Introduction
4.2 The River
4.3 The Degas Suite
4.4 Conclusion—The Costs of the Stockpile: Ellington and Recording



Darren LaCour

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