Andrei Strizek

Music | Musings


I was searching for some music quotes for one of my last assignments of the semester, and I found myself digging through Music Is My Mistress, Duke Ellington's autobiography. I was heavily into Duke and his music my last few years of high school, and I devoured everything I could find by or about him, but especially his own writings. (Today I still have great respect for Duke but I don't listen to him as much as I once did - I think I achieved a burnout I'm still recovering from - but when he makes an appearance on iTunes my foot starts tapping and I start smiling, just as I did in 11th grade.) He wrote a short chapter that I apparently felt was of importance those 10+ years ago, as it was highlighted and marked. I reread it, and felt it was worth sharing here. It appears about two-thirds through the book, as his talking about his overseas travels in the late 1960s:

In order to have a category, one must build a wall, or two, or more. Walls go all the way back in history. Walls may be high or low, thick or thin. The dictionary says a wall is an upright structure that divides or encloses. The Red Fort in Delhi was thought to be impregnable when it was built in 1050, because of the wall around it. Then there are the Walls of Jericho, the Great Wall of China, and the wall the Romans built to keep the Scots out of England. The best known wall is the wall around which the world of gold revolves - Wall Street. There are walls in many places where the United States of America has sent dollars, and they have signs posted on them that read, GO HOME YANKEE!

One of the truly great walls is the sea wall that the Dutch built to protect the land from the sea. It holds hope of more land, tomorrow. The amount of land they hope to reclaim in a hundred years is tremendous. The most necessary wall is one that protects you from your enemy. Unfortunately, the Maginot Line is a very modern example, and more recently the Berlin Wall was erected to separate opinion from differences of opinion. Harm walls protect beautiful gardens, beautiful fountains, and beautiful women from prying eyes. There is the wall a man puts his back to when outnumbered by his enemies, or when he faces the firing squad. There is the wall in the Bible that man pisseth against. But of all the walls, the tallest, most invisible, and most insidious, that according to some observers mars the image of our country, is the wall of prejudice.

Did God ever build a wall?

Then there are the walls of prisons, the walls that enclose nuns, and even children build walls with blocks while playing and having fun. One must beware of the wall one talks to hoping for an affirmative answer to the question, "Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?"

For the public, the wall may bear news that is good or bad, prohibitions or information. Walls often divide the nobility from the commoner. The fortress beyond the moat relies on walls for its ultimate defense. There is a wall around the ghetto, and, surprisingly enough, there is often a wall around the cathedral. Some walls crumble, and others, like the sound barrier, are burst asunder. There is the wall of love that Romeo climbed to Juliet, and there is the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.

But did God ever build a wall?

Ellington, Duke (1973) Music Is My Mistress. Da Capo Press: New York City, 360-361.

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