Beyond Categories

The legendary Duke Ellington, a favorite composer of mine, coined this phrase “beyond categories” to describe his music.  This is an idea that I believe all musicians should consider each and every time we pick up our instruments.  Without the “attractive gloss,” as Duke describes it, of labels on our music, we are free to hear it without any preconceptions distracting us from what’s really there.

As performers, composers, improvisers, or teachers, it is important for us to always think artistically.  We must not get caught in the traps and pigeonholes too frequently offered by the music industry.  Ellington writes in his book Music is My Mistress, “Categories are sometimes used as a crutch for a weak artistic ability to lean on.”  If jazz always sounded like jazz, how would it ever evolve?  If a violinist always performs a certain concerto flawlessly but without any personality, why should we listen to that particular violinist?

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Composed and premiered a new work entitled Lost in Translation at the 7th Annual Chicago Calling Festival on October 5 for Nu Directions Chamber Brass!
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Tom Madeja