Dd Book Club DISCUSSION, Week 3: Falling Between Two Stools

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“Dvorak had assumed that American music would come into its own when it succeeded in importing African-American material into European form, but in the end the opposite thing happened: African-American composers appropriated European material into self-invented forms of blues and jazz” (165). This seemed to me to be Ross’s working thesis for Chapter 4, “Invisible Men”. Since the preceding two posts have been heavy on concept, and the following artists seem to blow many of those concepts out of the water, I thought it best to just include some clips below for us to discuss.

What is your response to this music? (For an insane mash-up, hit play on them all at the same time. Feel free to give a response to this too;-) )


“He was incapable of asserting a monolithic point of view; instead, he created a kind of open-ended listening room, a space of limitless echoes” (146).


“Falling between two stools was, in fact, the essence of Gershwin’s genius. He led at all times a double life: as music-theater professional and concert composer, as highbrow artist and lowbrow entertainer, as all-American kid and immigrant’s son, as white man and ‘white Negro'” (163).


“To attempt to elevate the status of the jazz musician by forcing the level of his best work into comparisons with classical music is to deny him his rightful share of originality” (164) -Duke Ellington.


The “curiously moving photograph of Igor Stravinsky kneeling over Sibelius’s grave” (191).

“Not everyone can be an ‘innovating genius,’ ” he [Sibelius] wrote one day in his diary. “As a personality and ‘eine Erscheinung aus den Waldern’ [apparition from the woods] you will have your small modest place” (174).


As Chapters 4 and 5 celebrate the radical spirit of the individual, making the music he wants regardless of trend, feel free to also comment on the music and men I have not included above, such as:

Will Marion Cook

Edgard Varese

Carl Ruggles

William Grant Still

Virgil Thomson


(Check in on our past two discussions: Week 1 and Week 2. Send on any topics, questions, and/or clips/links for Week 4’s discussion of Ch. 6 and 7 to me at hello@diydancer.com by Monday and I will include them in next week’s post!)


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  • stephanie

    I’ve totally fallen off the bandwagon with my book club, but I am jumping right back on. First of all, this was some of the most interesting text to me yet.

    I took your advice and made my own little mash-up by playing all youtube videos at once. It actually works rather well, and when the opening line of “Summertime” crept it’s way in…so cool. I recommend everyone do it. Personally, this music makes my heart soar.

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