The literary plays an indispensable role in the creative process and compositional technique of the great jazz composer and orchestra leader Duke Ellington. It is well known that he based a number of his pieces on literary sources and that many of his larger works in particular rely on narrative written by Ellington and/or his collaborator Billy Strayhorn, whether it was programmatic, recitative, or lyric. In all his music, Ellington was concerned with ''telling tales'' in language, not only in sounds - or more precisely, in both: composing in ways that combined words and music. This imperative is evidenced in the pieces Ellington called ''parallels,'' a word he chose in particular to highlight the formal relationship between music and literature. In some, such as the ''Shakespearean Suite'' known as ''Such Sweet Thunder,'' he used various structural approaches and instrumental techniques to achieve portraiture through the interrelationship between the musical and the literary. In other pieces, such as ''My People'' and especially ''Black, Brown and Beige,'' Ellington attempted to integrate literary texts into his music in a manner that is not programmatic. The longer pieces demonstrate that for Ellington's aesthetic, the representation of African American history necessitated a mixed, multimedia form.
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