Chapter Nine The Whodunit Game: The Mature Style of Billy Strayhorn

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 Nine The Whodunit Game: The Mature Style of Billy Strayhorn

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This chapter plots the development in Strayhorn’s later arranging and composing. By the mid-1950s, Strayhorn had expanded his music writing with numerous individual elements into a mature and distinctive style that showed an increased complexity on all levels, while at the same time it had an unsurpassed emotional quality. The chapter looks at the most important components in his later-year composing, including chromaticism, melodic cells, classical construction, angular lines, static harmony, harmonic ambiguity, complex modulations, widened tonality, linear and through-composed forms, multiple-thematic writing, complex through-imitation, clusters, layering of chords, and rhythmic gestures. Examples are drawn from Cashmere Cutie, Pretty Girl, U.M.M.G., Ballad for Very Tired and Very Sad Lotus Eaters, Up and Down, Orson, Day Dream, and Take the “A” Train (1956).

Keywords: Ellington; rhythmic gestures; chromaticism; clusters; multiple-thematic writing; complex modulations; harmonic ambiguity; melodic cells; classical construction; angular lines; static harmony; widened tonality

Chapter.  6727 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

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