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"Categories" By Duke Ellington

“The category is a Grand Canyon of echoes. Somebody utters an obscenity and you hear it keep bouncing back a million times. Categories are sometimes used by a person who feels that the one he’s talking to doesn’t know enough about the language in which he speaks. So he uses lines, boxes, circles, and pigeonholes to help the less literate one to a better understanding.

On the other hand, categories are sometimes used as a crutch for a weak artistic ability to lean on. The category gives the artistic cripple’s work an attractive gloss.

An agreeable smell is in the nose of the one who smells it.

Sometimes bad taste is resorted to for its shock effect, to attract attention. A magnificent feast is to be served, but when the guest sit down and start eating, the host changes the lighting effects to make the book look sickening.

A categories must be loyal to his category, and when he is experiencing cacophony he must wear an ecstatic expression on his face to prove that he digs the vibrations, man! And some really do dig distortion. Abstraction can reach a point where it represents or says anything the artist claims. Since no one else speaks his language, or the language the piece de resistance is written or painted in, he–the artist–is the only one to understand it. But if you want to be in, just make believe you dig it, man! Can you really blame people, with social requirements so demanding? Almost everybody wants to be somebody socially”

—Duke Ellington in Music is my Mistress

Thanks Duke.

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