Ambiguity of Identity in the “Global Village”: Ellington, McLuhan, and the Afro-Eurasian Eclipse


Ambiguity of Identity in the “Global Village”: Ellington, McLuhan, and the Afro-Eurasian Eclipse
Jazz Perspectives
1749-4060, 1749-4079
With their focus on world musical inspirations, the late suites of Duke Ellington offer a rich source for exploring his relationship with jazz identity beyond the American dichotomy of black and white. While the spread of jazz around the globe during the 1950s and 1960s on one level represented American prosperity, it could also be understood as presenting a threat to the uniquely American identity of jazz. Through his experiences on numerous State Department tours, Duke Ellington also recognized both the positive and negative implications of globalization, as evidenced in many of his comments about musical identity from this time. His own ambivalence resonated with statements of Marshall McLuhan, a popular intellectual icon whose ideas challenged people to reconsider their relationship with media and with others around the globe. When Ellington encountered McLuhan's ideas, he incorporated them into his presentation of his late suite, the Afro-Eurasian Eclipse (1970). By exploring Ellington's discussion of the suite, its relation to Marshall McLuhan's notions of globalization and identity loss, and its employment of musical tropes, we can begin to understand Ellington's evaluation of jazz identity in a context beyond the stereotypical black and white of America. I argue that the suite represents Ellington's attempt to negotiate the expanding horizons of jazz in an era when its definition had evolved largely beyond the communities who had directed its development. By incorporating musical signifiers of other cultures into his language, Ellington could reenact a kind of microcosmic “global village” on his own terms, while continually renegotiating his own musical identity as an aging bandleader in a fast changing world.
Ambiguity of Identity in the “Global Village”
2019-05-03T07:56:41Z (Crossref)