Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Metzer, David. "Shadow Play: The Spiritual in Duke Ellington's 'Black and Tan Fantasy.'" Black Music Research Journal 17, no. 2 (Fall 1997): 137-58.

The inclusion of an African-American spiritual in Ellington's Black and Tan Fantasy follows the ideas set forth by many writers during the Harlem Renaissance. Ellington takes the Renaissance ideals a step further by integrating the spiritual with blues, urban jazz, call-and-response, and even a quotation of Chopin's funeral march. Bubber Miley, cornetist and co-composer in the Ellington band, bases the opening motive of the fantasy on a spiritual he heard his mother singing while he was a child. However, the spiritual is not truly African-American in its origins. A friend of Miley pointed out that the spiritual is derived from "The Holy City," a sacred song in the style of a spiritual but by the white composer Stephen Adams. This white sacred tune is transformed through Miley's performance practice of bending the pitches, growling, and vocal ya-yas. These issues moved the spiritual away from Du Bois's ideas of the "sorrow song" with lush, pleasant, and Europeanized harmonies and toward Hurston's ideas of the spiritual, which strives for the unrefined sounds of the "real Negro singer." Black and Tan Fantasy was not the only jazz composition to draw upon "The Holy City." King Oliver and His Creole Jazz Band incorporated the sacred work into a twelve-bar blues, and Johnny Dodds responds to the text and music of "The Holy City" in his composition "Weary City."

Works: Ellington/Miley: Black and Tan Fantasy (137-58); Oliver: Chimes Blues (151); Dodds: Weary City (151-53).

Sources: Adams: The Holy City (137-58); Chopin: Piano Sonata No. 2 in B flat Minor (140).

Index Classifications: 1900s, Popular

Contributed by: Matthew Altizer

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