This talk (a Mercredi de l'institut exceptionally on a Thursday) , entitled Music, Text, Image: Duke Ellington’s Paris Blues and Such Sweet Thunder (the Shakespearean Suite) offers a slide-and-music overview of two projects by the composer Duke Ellington: Such Sweet Thunder (his Shakespearean suite, 1957) and Paris Blues (his movie soundtrack, 1960). In both cases Ellington translated complex visual and literary material into his own musical idiom. Despite what Ellington considered the highly promising beginnings of Paris Blues (in early scripts), ultimately he found himself seriously at odds with that movie, and began to fight against it with his music. What was it about Paris Blues that Ellington rejected? What was his musical rejoinder? And what was Ellington’s sense of Shakespeare? How did he revise Shakespeare, too, for his own purposes?
Robert G. O'Meally
United States / Columbia University
Robert G. O’Meally is the Zora Neale Hurston Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, where he has served on the faculty for twenty-five years. A scholar whose work encompasses literature, music, and visual art, O’Meally is the founder and director of Columbia’s Center for Jazz Studies. He is the author of The Craft of Ralph Ellison, Lady Day: The Many Faces of Billie Holiday, The Jazz Singers, and Romare Bearden: A Black Odyssey. His edited volumes include The Jazz Cadence of American Culture, Living with Music: Ralph Ellison’s Essays on Jazz, The Norton Anthology of African American Literature (co-editor), and the Barnes and Noble editions of Mark Twain, Herman Melville, and Frederick Douglass.