Who wrote Duke Ellington’s music? Authorship and collective creativity in ‘Mood Indigo’

Heile, B. (2015) Who wrote Duke Ellington’s music? Authorship and collective creativity in ‘Mood Indigo’. In: Rahmatian, A. (ed.) Concepts of Music and Copyright: How music perceives itself and how copyright perceives music. Edward Elgar, pp. 123-142. ISBN 9781783478187

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The copyright system privileges composition over performance, particularly improvisation, and melody over harmony. Both of these evaluations are problematic in the field of popular music, which is often the result of collaborative processes involving improvisation, and where harmonic structures may be of greater importance than recognisable tunes. In this chapter, I will illuminate the creative process of the Duke Ellington Orchestra. Often regarded as, variously, America’s or the Twentieth Century’s ‘greatest composer’, Ellington arguably comes closest to a traditional authorial figure in jazz. Nevertheless, the majority of his most famous creations are the result of often complex collaborative processes. Using ‘Mood Indigo’ as a case study, I will reconstruct the creative contributions of various individuals in detail, evaluating their originality and significance for the final result. As I will show, although he was by no means the sole creator of the song, Ellington did take most of the fundamental creative decisions and, as bandleader, lent the tune a ‘brand identity’.

Item Type:Book Sections
Keywords:Duke Ellington, Barney Bigard, Mood Indigo, collective creativity, originality, copyright, jazz, swing
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Heile, Professor Bjorn
Authors: Heile, B.
Subjects:M Music and Books on Music > ML Literature of music
College/School:College of Arts & Humanities > School of Culture and Creative Arts > Music
Publisher:Edward Elgar
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