Thursday, December 1, 2005

Beyond category

Duke Ellington always insisted that great art is "beyond category." Here he is, refusing to be categorized by an interviewer:

You've been quoted as saying that you write the music of your people as it sounds to you.


Now, would you like to expound on that a little bit?

Let's see. My people--now which of my people? I mean--you know, I'm in several groups, you know. I'm in--let's see--I'm in the group of the piano players. I'm in the group of the listeners. I'm in the groups of people who have general appreciation of music. I'm in the group of those who aspire to be dilettantes. I'm in the group of those who attempt to produce something fit for the plateau. I'm in the group of--what now? Oh, yeah, those who appreciate Beaujolais [laughs]. And then of course I'm in the--of course, I've had such a strong influence by the music of the people. The people, that's the better word, the people rather than my people, because the people are my people.
[Transcribed from Ken Burns' Jazz. The film footage looks to be from the mid-1960s.]

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