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- Jun 2023
Only Stravinsky and Milhaud were able to use these new resources in such a way as to give rise to great works of art. Stravinsky concentrated on the rhythmic possibilities of the music, whereas Milhaud was attracted more to its "inner voice," especially the expressive potential of its instrumenta-tion, in particular the eloquent use of percussion. Excerpts from the above-mentioned chapter of his Etudes help us to follow the genesis of La creation du monde: Their primitive African herita~e still remains deeply anchored in the souls of Amencan Negroes, and thereto lies the source of their formidable sense of rhythm as well as their profoundly moving gift for a kind of melody that only people who have been long oppressed know how to utter. The first examples of Negro music were spirituals, religious songs sung by slaves and based on popular tradition. These songs have the same sort of melodies as are found in, for example, W. C. Handy's "Saint-Louis Blues" .... All have the same ten-derness, sadness, and profession of faith as do songs like "Go Down Moses," in which the slaves compared their fate to that of the Jews in bondage in Egypt and cried out to Moses to save them. Such reflections by Milhaud already indicate that his use of jazz ele-ments in La creation du monde was anything but superficial. But let us continue to read what he says about his choice of instruments: In addition to their dance music, with its unique improvisational quality, the Blacks also adapt jazz to theatrical spectacle in a most felicitous manner. ... In Liz a, an operetta by Mr. Maceo Pinkard, the orchestra consists of a flute, a clarinet, two trumpets, a trombone, an assortment of percussion instruments all handled by one player, a piano, a string quartet in which the viola is re-placed by a saxophone, and a double bass .... Moreover, Black jazz is far removed from the slick sophistication of so much contemporary American dance music. It never loses its primitive African character; the intensity and repetitiousness of the rhythms and melodies produce a tragic, desperate ef-fect. And it is this capacity to arouse deep emotions in its listeners that puts it in the same category as the greatest works of art.
Darius Milhaud Collaer, P. 1988