Chapter One Fantastic Rhythm: The Pittsburgh Years

Walter van de Leur

in Something to Live For

Published in print April 2002 | ISBN: 9780195124484
Published online September 2008 | e-ISBN: 9780199868711 | DOI:
Chapter One Fantastic Rhythm: The Pittsburgh Years

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This chapter plots the three lines along which Strayhorn’s music developed: classical music, theater music, and jazz. After a brief biographical narrative, it investigates Strayhorn’s surviving counterpoint exercises. These bring up his education in classical music and his classical piano playing. Strayhorn’s early compositions in a classical vein that presage some of his later works are introduced, including Valse (Lento Sostenuto) and Concerto for Piano and Percussion. The chapter then moves to the theater show Fantastic Rhythm (1935), for which Strayhorn wrote the music and the lyrics. A discussion of the show follows, based on rediscovered manuscripts. Though youthful, this show too foreshadows Strayhorn’s later work. Other original early works are presented, including Lush Life, Something to Live For, and Your Love Has Faded. The chapter concludes with an exploration of Strayhorn’s jazz orchestrations from his pre-Ellington period.

Keywords: Ellington; Pittsburgh; classical music; theater music; jazz; Lush Life

Chapter.  7351 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

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