The ancient pentatonic is African...
The Old World and The Blues. Duke, the pianist, is insinuatingly
black-key based. But he uses the white keys as part of the whole,
all related more organically. The sharps and flats are part of one
integrated scale (as the Twelve-Tone composers demonstrated to some
extent). So that "minors" and "majors" express each other as dialectical
relationships existing as a living whole.
One wonders did Duke ever discuss
with Paul Robeson the profound research Robeson did, internationally,
on the relationship of the world wide existence of the ancient pentatonic
and the later diatonic "tempered" scale Europe created with its
ascendance (ca 15th c) and the resulting segregated piano. The very
existence of the White/Black key segregation, exclusion from the
diatonic as "flat" or "sharp", of what? These sharps and flats actually
speak of the historic existence and ancientness of the Pentatonic
Scale (Blues) as found throughout ancient world cultures, from Africa
to Russia to Mexico, &c.
The European Diatonic scale is a psychosocial
privileging of notes over others, as a fixed "tempered" scale. Actually,
the black notes are the ancient vowels of speech, of languages,
the five senses (5+5) the hands, the feet, the organs on the face
of the senses.
The music speaks, sings, as a totality
of its own historic actuality, the confirmation of all the aspects
of which it is composed. In other words, it is what it tells about.
The refusal, in 1967, by the Pulitzer Prize committee to give the
Pulitzer to Duke, after its own music judges had selected him, is
just another bizarre proof that the U.S has never been a democracy.
Just as the same embarrassing national chauvinism enabled "great
musical minds" like Irving Mills and John Hammond and to pass judgement
that Duke had betrayed "Jazz" when he began to produce the extended
masterworks and suites. Or Downbeat and Metronome writing in the
40's that the emergence of Bird, Diz, Monk, &c signaled the "death"
of the music, giving their records "No Stars" initially, and then
years later, to save the unface they had left, re-reviewed the records!
Still it goes on, with frequent NY
Times writers like Richard Sudhalter contributing such gems of national
chauvinism as saying that the music did not originate in the Afro
American community, as a vector of that culture, but was actually
co-created by white musicians. Certainly, Mr. Sudhalter is entitled
to his opinion, but in the context of the historic racism and national
oppression under which Black people have suffered in the U.S., and
the fact that there are yet no major newspapers in the country in
which a black writer is featured writing about Jazz, such tedious
subjectivism as Sudhalter's seems only another shell from the scatter
gun of white nationalism, Black national oppression and racism!
(Let us imagine there was no a major newspaper with a featured Euro-American
writer writing on European concert music!)