Rhapsody In Blue Essay

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Pages: 6

Rhapsody In Blue

George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue is one of those timeless classics that is instantly recognizable to many people’s ears today, even ninety years after it was first introduced to the world. It is a piece that has found its way into contemporary movies and advertisements, making it likely as recognizable as Chopin’s Funeral March or Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. But unlike these two pieces of iconic classical music, Rhapsody in Blue “resists classification.”1 In it are elements of classical music, blues and jazz, making it at once “Gershwin’s most famous piece” but also “possibly his least understood composition.”2 Indeed, while Rhapsody became a popular hit in the
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You can remove any of these stuck-together sections and the piece still goes on as bravel as before. You can even interchange these sections with one another and no harm is done. It can be a five minute piece or six minute piece or twelve minute piece. It’s still the Rhapsody in Blue.12

The answer to why such a celebrated piece of music today might have been so artistically suspect in past years may have everything to do with clash between the so-called American “highbrow” and “lowbrow” cultures of the 1920s. By blending the classical with the jazz, Gershwin may have drawn the ire of “high” culture purists who ridiculed this effort.13 Steven Gilbert, writing that “American music has long been paired into ‘high’ and ‘low’ cultures, and the tendency has been to put such uniquely American art forms as jazz and the musical show into the latter category,” helps support this notion.14

When Rhapsody in Blue debuted in 1924, Gershwin’s career was only distinguished in the realm of popular jazz and ragtime music. His first foray into a classical composition was therefore likely to be met with some skepticism (which it clearly was). However, it would be incorrect to assume that Gershwin was a pop-artist who was only attempting a classical composition. In fact he was introduced to the European classics by his piano teacher, Charles Hambitzer, at a young age.15
Howard Pollack asserts that: Gershwin’s involvement with concert music [of the