Tuesday, April 29, 2008

On Duke Ellington's birthday

Roaming through the jungle, the jungle of "oohs" and "ahs," searching for a more agreeable noise, I live a life of primitivity with the mind of a child and an unquenchable thirst for sharps and flats. The more consonant, the more appetizing and delectable they are. Cacophony is hard to swallow. Living in a cave, I am almost a hermit, but there is a difference, for I have a mistress. Lovers have come and gone, but only my mistress stays. She is beautiful and gentle. She waits on me hand and foot. She is a swinger. She has grace. To hear her speak, you can't believe your ears. She is ten thousand years old. She is as modern as tomorrow, a brand-new woman every day, and as endless as time mathematics. Living with her is a labyrinth of ramifications. I look forward to her every gesture.

Music is my mistress, and she plays second fiddle to no one.

Duke Ellington, Music Is My Mistress (New York: Doubleday, 1973), 447.
Edward Kennedy Ellington was born on April 29, 1899. The above image is from the LP-sized booklet that came with This One's for Blanton (Pablo, 1972), the first Ellington recording I bought.

If you're looking for an introduction to Ellington's music, The Great Paris Concert is a great start.

comments: 2

Anonymous said...

I've been looking for this piece from Ellington's book ever since I've heard it in Dutch (my mother tongue). It only started from the sentence 'I have a mistress', but believe it or not, it helped me on my way to musicianship.

So thank you so much for putting this text online!

Michael Leddy said...

You're welcome, Cecilia!

Google Book Search is often a good way to track down a passage you need. Not every online transcription is accurate (though this one is, for sure).