REVIEW of REVIEWS

Says Gershwin Musical Force

Music Critic Says Jazz Composer Writes American Music —It is “Good" Music.

ABBE NILES April 1 1929
REVIEW of REVIEWS

Says Gershwin Musical Force

Music Critic Says Jazz Composer Writes American Music —It is “Good" Music.

ABBE NILES April 1 1929

Says Gershwin Musical Force

Music Critic Says Jazz Composer Writes American Music —It is “Good" Music.

ABBE NILES

SOME hundreds of thousands of victrolas all over the world have cooed, shrieked, roared, and blared forth the music of the “Rhapsody in Blue” by George Gershwin. He is known as the composer of hundreds of titillating tunes that have adorned many a musical comedy or revue. On second thought, this last statement isn’t strictly true: the name of the composer of a musical show’s music frequently is omitted from the programme, the space being taken by the title of the firm who supplied the paper hats for the girls who do the calcium chloride lunacy in Scene 267 of Act 1.

Suffice it to say that Gershwin’s name is pretty generally known to lovers of both so-called “classical” music and of the lighter and more humble chanson. It is the opinion of Abbe Niles, writing in the New York Nation, that this man Gershwin, musically uninstructed as he is, is the outstanding force in American music. Says Mr. Niles:

“It is not that Gershwin has written good music; the present writer thinks it good, but the point is that, good or not, it is American, in the popular idiom, and good enough to show that first-rate music, even in the longer forms, can be written in that idiom by anyone with the requisite training and natural gifts.

“This demonstration Gershwin has achieved, in the first place, by perhaps 150 songs. Not all of them are good ones. Some that present their writer’s inspiration at its height suffer from the real or fancied necessity of writing for musical comedies, only in the narrow forms desired by dance orchestras. Yet they are engagingly cast in their constricted mould and so widely appealing as to make it unnecessary to cite the titles of the best, from T Was So Young’ to ‘The Man I Love.’ They show a pride of workmanship, an attention to detail (vide the invention spent on their introductory measures and on the two bars at their close), and an avoidance of harmonic cliches, qualities which were unknown to popular music a few years ago, and which are being emulated by others to the general good of the art.

“It is, however, through his adventures in the concert halls that this composer has done most to discredit the vulgar fallacy, because these adventures were not only well, but spectacularly, carried off. The ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ demonstrated in fifteen minutes that jazz is independent of the fox-trot rhythm and form, and is, therefore, available for experiments in the longer forms. This lesson was driven home by the piano concerto in F, a less compact and balanced work, less happy in its orchestration (Gershwin’s first attempt), but rich, if not too rich, in pleasing themes. It reveals a unity that signifies the same devoted care and thought as do the best of the songs. ‘135th Street’, wrongly labeled a jazz opera, suggested little new, save, for a moment during the ‘Pagliacci’ burlesque which formed its prologue, the possibilities of the more savage and wry-mouthed jazz for conveying a sense of tragedy.

“It is not to be imagined that by ‘An American in Paris’ (presented December 13 by Mr. Damrosch and the Philharmonic Symphony) Gershwin darkly planned to damage fallacies and confute snobs. Obviously he had immensely enjoyed working out his little story of a Yankee, as simple in his peculiar way as Mallarme’s faun, harmlessly trotting the streets, eluding taxis and the museums.”