UC Berkeley talk and some nice mentions

Three brief items of note:

1) On Friday, May 1, 2015 I’ll be giving a talk at UC Berkeley as part of their Music Studies Colloquium.  The title of the talk is: “Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed: Rhapsody in Blue.”  Morrison Hall, 4:30 pm.

2) In an interview with Music Tomes about his recently released The Country Music Reader, my all-around respected colleague, Dr. Travis Stimeling had a few nice things to say about Arranging Gershwin:

Ryan Banagale’s Arranging Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue and the Creation of an American Icon is a remarkable work of reception history that presents a treasure trove of new archival evidence to demonstrate how musicians have constantly arranged and rearranged Rhapsody in Blue to suit their specific musical, economic, and social purposes.

3) In the May 2015 issue of Jersey Jazz,  Jazz historian, Donald Clarke, provided a nice write-up of the book–including reference to a performance of an Ellington arrangement of the piece that I prepared several years ago:

Bañagale’s book tells the whole story of everything the piece has been through, from the first Whiteman recording to United Airline’s use of it in their commercials, including Larry Adler playing it on the harmonica and Woody Allen and even Disney using it in movies. There are musical illustrations and analyses of arrangements, but even if you don’t know much about the nuts and bolts of music (like me) the book is fascinating. Duke Ellington played two arrangements of “Rhapsody In Blue” — the second, in 1967, was probably by Strayhorn; the first, in 1932, was never recorded, but the arrangement still exists and was performed in 2009 by the Harvard Dudley House Big Band, with Bañagale on piano.

2 thoughts on “UC Berkeley talk and some nice mentions

  1. Dear Ryan,

    I have just finished reading “Arranging Gershwin”. I have been a lifelong student of the music of George Gershwin, and I think your book adds immeasurably to the available scholarship on the work. In particular, your conclusions concerning Gershwin’s compositional process, derived from an assessment of the three contemporaneous manuscripts reads like the very best kind of detective story. I was truly fascinated. I was particularly interested in the extent to which previous assessments of the work had overlooked Gershwin’s inked fair copy of the Rhapsody. I first played the piece from the 1927 solo piano edition and, until reading your book, was unaware that it had been prepared by Isadore Gorn – whom I believe played the work with Gershwin in a recital for two pianos in December 1926. I wonder if Gershwin offered any instructions or suggestions to him in preparation of the solo score? Pianistic devices used in the ‘orchestral’ sections of this solo score strike me as being markedly similar to Gershwin’s own piano technique evident in some of his piano-roll recordings: full thickness octave chords, the left hand sometimes intervening to help right, and the use of half the entire keyboard at once, particularly in the cascading treble accompaniment to the Andantino theme’s restatement in the finale (I thought it bore similarly with the style of Gershwin’s playing in parts of his recording of S’Wonderful/FunnyFace). Relearning it again with the solo score annotated by Alicia Zizzo, I had come to the tentative conclusion that it seems almost impossible to pin the work down in terms of an authentic performance, and I admire both these editions. It is hard to resist the conclusion that each new edition is another arrangement of the work. This is to say nothing of the fascinating psychological exploration of Bernstein’s famous interpretation, Duke Ellington et cetera in your book. It is totally compelling. Congratulations.

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    • Thank you, Guy, for taking the time to read the book so thoroughly and for your kind words about the text as a whole. I will have to look further into the Gorn-Gershwin performances. To the best of my knowledge, no evidence survives (one way or the other) about what suggestions Gershwin might have provided for the solo-piano version. I would guess relatively little if any input was provided, but Gorn’s familiarity with Gershwin’s pianistic technique certainly could have played a hand in the construction of the solo-piano score. I am currently at work on the first of four critical edition arrangements for the Gershwin Initiative underway at the University of Michigan. I don’t know if we’ll ever get to that 1927 solo-piano edition, but it seems to be an increasingly important document in the ongoing life of the piece. Thanks for your comments and observations!

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