Composer / Arranger  Ed  Bland

A Conversation with Bruce Duffie


Edward Osmund Bland (July 25, 1926–March 14, 2013) was an American composer and musical director.

Bland was born on the South Side of Chicago to Althea and Edward Bland. His father was a postal worker but also a self-taught literary critic with illustrious friends such as Ralph Ellison, Gwendolyn Brooks and Langston Hughes. Edward senior died in the Battle of the Bulge in 1944, and son Edward Bland also briefly served in the Army during World War II, after which he studied at both the University of Chicago and the American Conservatory of Music on the G.I. Bill.

Among his compositions is a concerto for electric violin and chamber orchestra. He composed scores for the TV play A Raisin in the Sun (1989) and the film A Soldier's Story (1984). Another notable work is Sketches Set Seven for piano.

He also wrote, directed and produced the 1959 film The Cry of Jazz. In the 1990s, this documentary was rediscovered by scholars and celebrated as an early example of independent black filmmaking. It was soon restored and reissued on DVD in 1996, and in 2010 the Library of Congress added it to its National Film Registry collection as “a historic and fascinating film that comments on racism and the appropriation of jazz by those who fail to understand its artistic and cultural origins.

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Considered by some Hip-Hoppers to be the great grandfather of Hip-Hop, because of the confrontational quality of his musical film work, Ed Bland has left his mark in several fields.


In concert music, Bland's "Piece For Chamber Orchestra" (1979) was called, "An amazing tour de force in terms of relentless energy and build up of tension...a fascinating strong piece," by Gunther Schuller, American composer/conductor/author; and "Original and Fresh," by Bruce Creditor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.


Among the groups that have performed Bland's works are the Baltimore, Detroit, Memphis, and St Louis Symphonies, the Chicago Civic Orchestra, and the Brooklyn Philharmonic.


In the late 30s in Chicago, Bland began music as a jazz protégé eventually composing atonally, using Schoenberg's 12-tone system.


In 1959, he produced the first Hip-Hop film, "The Cry of Jazz." Willard Van Dyke pre-eminent American film documentarian (and head of the Film Division of the Museum of Modern Art NYC), said that the "Cry" predicted the riots in the American cities of the '60s and '70s. Bland used the early music of Sun Ra and his Arkestra in the soundtrack of the film.


Bland's synthesis of three canons of music, Western, Jazz and West African Drumming, made it possible for him to work as composer, producer, arranger, orchestrator in the recording, and film industries. Among those sessions was one using Jimi Hendrix in his early days.


In the '90s, after years composing, arranging and producing in the record industry, many of Bland's efforts were sampled by Hip-Hop artists that led to sales in excess of 30 million CDs. Fat Boy Slim and Cypress Hill are artists that sampled his works.

After 20 years in Los Angeles composing and orchestrating for film and TV, Bland moved to Smithfield, VA, where he was finishing a percussion Dance Suite entitled "Penderecki Funk" when he passed away on March 14, 2013.

At the beginning of April of 1992, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ed Bland.  We met at the studios of WNIB, Classical 97, and had a most delightful chat.  We discussed a wide range of musical subjects, touching on several of his varied interests.
Portions of the conversation were used on WNIB, and later on WNUR, and also Contemporary Classical Internet Radio.  Now, more than 20 years later, I am happy to present the entire encounter on this webpage.  Note that names which are links refer to my interviews elsewhere on my website.

Bruce Duffie:   You are a composer of concert music, you’re a composer of jazz, you’re an arranger, you’re a record producer, you’re a teacher... how do you divide your time among all of those very taxing activities?

Ed Bland:   I usually don’t have to divide my time because only one of them comes up at a time.  So there’s very little contrapuntal activity going on.

BD:   You have managed to keep all of them separate?

Ed Bland:   Right.  Obviously, some are more appealing than others.

BD:   I won’t ask which is which, but pursuant to that, when you’re writing a classical composition, do you let the jazz influence your style, and vice versa?

Ed Bland:   To me, training is training.  It’s a matter of craft, and that shows whatever style you’re in the midst of.  For instance, I’ve done a lot of Mantovani-type arrangements.  [Laughs]  Those were real
elevator music at that time.  I had to do 132 of them in 6 weeks in England back in ’69, and that was precisely a craft problem.  The tunes were horrible, some Liberace-type of material.

BD:   You were just doing it to make dollars?

Ed Bland:   Oh, yes.  It was my first trip to Europe, because this company wanted this stuff done there because it’s much more inexpensive in London when you start using those string players than it would have been in New York.  It turned out to be 12 different albums.  So it was a craft problem, and that’s the way in which I approach whatever style I’m working.

BD:   [With a gentle nudge]  You didn’t let your animosity toward the tunes reflect what you did with them?

Ed Bland:   I tried not to.  As it was, I only had 3 hours to do each arrangement in order to keep the schedule going, because we only had about 6 weeks.  I had to get them out because sessions were scheduled, and copiers were waiting at the door of my hotel room.

BD:   Give it to them with the ink still wet!

Ed Bland:   [Laughs]  Right.

BD:   Do you ever find that this craft you developed which helped you to do something quickly would also help you if you get stuck in a classical piece that you’re really interested in?

Ed Bland:   That’s what I try not to do.  Certain of my classical works are what I call
growth pieces’, and the last thing I want to do is get slick when I’m dealing with a situation like that.  The idea is to grow and define in those situations, not to see what I can come off with.  There are a lot of ways in which I could delude myself, and cheat myself, and that’s what I’d be doing by falling back on my technique.  Then, the loser would first be me, and then ultimately the listener.

BD:   Is it then true that if you grow in a piece, the audience will grow in the piece when they listen to it?

Ed Bland:   Yes, if we’re in communication.  If we’re not, I don’t know what they’re going through then.  They may feel like they’re going through the evolution.

BD:   Are there enough people who are interested in the various kinds of musics that you write?

Ed Bland:   Apparently.  The most interesting thing was when I moved from New York to the coast, I was doing some film work.  Then that petered out, as film work will, believe me.  While I was writing a few pieces, suddenly interests developed in my concert music, and that has started taking over more and more.  Now, what I’ve done is divide the concert music into certain types.  On one hand are those pieces which are way out, and those where I’m trying to be more accessible, or being extremely melodic if I want to be, which I can do.  In fact, that’s the way I discovered that I could write!  I could write a very beautiful melody with no trouble.  The fact is, of course there’s more to composition than writing pretty melodies.

BD:   When you write a pretty melody, is it expedient to make sure that it sells, or is it because it really comes from your heart and soul?

Ed Bland:   I wouldn’t write anything in terms of serious music that didn’t come from me.  But in terms of a commercial situation, you usually don’t have the time.  It isn’t about me in the first place.  One of the things you have to learn in doing commercial arranging and orchestration is that it’s a very objective situation that has to be met.  It’s like doing a school exercise, really, and you get paid very well for doing them.  Luckily, I had many years of Form and Analysis, so I can imitate almost anybody’s style, and then expand on it in the commercial sense.

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BD:   Coming back to the music you really want to write, I assume the style is your own, and that you’re not taking it from anyone else.

Ed Bland:   Right, as best as it can be mine, it is.

BD:   Have you got a real style of your own yet, or is it still a synthesis of everything that you’ve heard?
Ed Bland:   Nearly everybody, including people who do not like the type of music I write, say that they can tell my music just like that.  In fact, my doctor, who loathes contemporary music, said,
I heard you on the radio out in Los Angeles.  I didn’t even hear you speak, but I heard the music, and I knew it was you, and then your voice came on.  In another instance, Lance Bowling, who put out the first record on Cambria Records, is not a fan of contemporary music.  But as he told me, Yours is the only contemporary music that I can tell.  Your signature is right there, right from the get-go.

BD:   Is that a good thing?

Ed Bland:   I think it’s good, yes.

BD:   Now are there others who are going to try to imitate the Ed Bland style?

Ed Bland:   There’s no reason for them to imitate it unless they find it useful for their own ends, and I’m sure they won’t find it useful unless it is extremely commercially successful.  That’s the only reason they would imitate me.

BD:   Do you feel you’re part of an ongoing lineage of composers?  [Over the years, I have had the privilege of interviewing several African-American composers and classical artists.  The list of those guests is HERE.]

Ed Bland:   Oh, most definitely, but in a two-way stream.  First, I started off in jazz here.  In fact, Chicago’s my hometown.  My aim was to be a jazz musician, and all we did was play a lot of jam sessions, and jobs, and gigs around on clarinet and saxophone.  I was also getting all this training in school, and from private teachers playing the classical literature, such as the various concerti, including the Mozart, and the Brahms Quintet, and things like that.

BD:   Things that Benny Goodman did?

Ed Bland:   Right, but I didn’t like it.  I could do it, but the technical challenge was to do it well... and I did it quite well!  [Laughs]  In fact, I was one of the top clarinetists in the city at that time.  I was very young, and I also got very interested in Art Tatum and Duke Ellington, and what they were doing harmonically.  I didn’t realize it in just those terms at the time, but all sorts of ideas which seemed very strange were coursing through my head.  I couldn’t share it too well with the other musicians I was running around with because they thought I was kind of nuts anyway.  Then I was at a jam session, and Tatum was there.  During the break in this jam session, I was walking down the hallway of the house, and I heard some music that sounded like the stuff I had heard in my head.  So I knocked on the door, and it was one of the members of the family whose house it was.  The music was Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, and I decided from then on that was what I wanted to do.  It took about three weeks before I decided to finally made the plunge.

BD:   To give up playing?

Ed Bland:   Right, because you can’t do both.  If you’re good it takes 5 hours a day just to keep your edge in terms of playing and to do a little bit of growing.  Then, if you are going to learn a new craft, how are you going to live, and go to school, and so on and so forth?  The other thing is you’ll find your chops falling away if you don’t practice, and that’s a slow death.  I didn’t need to see that, so I just quit and took my chances.

BD:   Are you a better composer for having been a first-class player?

Ed Bland:   Oh, I think so, yes, because I write a lot of impossible things to play.  When people start telling me that it can’t be done, I know it can be done.  [Laughs]  I see myself growing out of the tradition of jazz, not in the sense of the popular song form, or any of the clichés of jazz, but I went that way because it seemed to me that I could expand or maximize what it seemed that jazz was trying to do, at least in my own personal vision of it.  That’s why I had to get into extended forms over pop song forms, which is what jazz is based on.  Once that got going, I started finding out about all the syntactical things that happened at the beginning of the 20th century.  What was the Schoenberg School?  What are the things the Americans were doing like Ravel and Ives?  Then Stravinsky went neoclassical, and that I’ll never understand.  I understand it philosophically, I just don’t understand it musically.

BD:   It’s not for you?

Ed Bland:   Right.  It was Schoenberg who really made me think about music, in the sense of wondering what every note was doing and why, which is good discipline.  It doesn’t necessarily lead to good music in his case, or anybody else’s, but still...

BD:   Should that kind of analysis be done after the music is written rather than while it’s being done?

Ed Bland:   Even when you’re writing, you’re analyzing.  You can’t help but criticize, because creation is both that and evaluating what you’ve done.  You think about how you are going to reshape it, and when you start thinking about reshaping, you’re criticizing.  It’s a two-tier type of thing going on simultaneously.  So, the tradition I see myself coming out of is how to maximize all this on the Black American musical experience.  That’s why I went into composition
not because I liked the tradition of western classical music, but, strangely enough, just out of utter ignorance.  I knew nothing about the master literature, and then I ran into Beethoven’s Grosse Fugue, and I loved it.  It’s the first classical record that I ever bought.

BD:   Of course, that’s one of his most complicated pieces.

Ed Bland:   Right, and then later, that was joined by the Hammerklavier Sonata, Opus 106
at least the last movement.  I found that I had a penchant for double fugues, and the type of tension, the type of activityI won’t say frenetic, but high energy activitywhich one usually associates with jazz so much.  So, it was interesting to find that aspect in the tonal arena in Beethoven from those late opus numbers.

BD:   The late quartets, and the late piano sonatas are very complex.

Ed Bland:   Right, and that’s the kind of tradition I see myself coming out of.

BD:   Are you extending that tradition?

Ed Bland:   I hope that I’m both integrating and extending, but that could just be my hubris.  [Laughs]

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BD:   You’ve done quite a bit of teaching.  What advice do you have for young composers?
Ed Bland:   I have not been teaching composition.  What happens, strangely enough, is people get me to sub for somebody who is on sabbatical.  I might do their 20th Century Harmony class, or teach some Film Music Writing, or some things about the music business, because I’ve been in it, so I know a few of the tricks that I can pass on to others.  But I’m not even sure that I’d want to teach composition.  All my life I’ve shied away from teaching composing.  It puts you in a funny position vis-à-vis yourself, because you have these various stylistic practices through the ages, and you have got the answers, and they’re ready-answers.  But this puts you in a position of passing these on to others.  However, I found myself about 5 five years ago teaching a 20th Century Harmony class, and in order to get into it, I had to go back a bit into what’s called the Italian 6th, or augmented 6th chord.  So I found myself in this tonal stuff, hearing different connections that weren’t meant to be in the first place.  What I’m saying is the material was speaking to me in another way, and when you get in an authoritative position like a teacher, you can have blinders on to the way in which a material might speak to you.  That’s one of the reasons I was not interested in teaching.  Usually, teaching is not about teaching anyway, unfortunately.

BD:   You mentioned the business of music.  Should players and composers understand the music business?

Ed Bland:   As best they can if they want to earn a living.  My former wife and I, and our first kid moved from Chicago to New York.  I had a number of good connections from my days of playing jazz, and the recording scene there.  So, once I decided to take the plunge, I had my portfolio ready.  It took about 600 phone calls over a period of 6 weeks.  I started counting the phone calls because it got so silly, but then I broke through.  On the same day, I got two jobs.  Those two jobs paid well, and kept me in money for about a year and a half.  In the meantime, I was still trying to find a 9-to-5 job, which never came.  But in so doing, you start learning what the angles are, and how to budget sessions.  You see how the people are hiring you when you’re on a free lance basis, and what they’re looking for in particular.  They usually have something very specific in mind, and you’ve got to be able not only to talk in their terms, but also to talk in their terms musically.

BD:   So you really can’t do what you want.  You’ve got to do what they want.

Ed Bland:   Of course.  There are many guys I know who have fantastic techniques, and have done all kinds of studying.  They get behind a singer as an arranger or orchestrator, and they swamp the singer.  The singer drowns, and that’s not really what the situation is about.  If you have something to say, and you have that kind of technique, okay, find a way to say it for yourself, because otherwise not only do you hurt the singer and the person that hired you, but you’re hurting yourself, because you’re not going to get another gig from those people.

BD:   You’ve written original compositions, and you’ve arranged other people’s compositions.  Have you ever taken one of your pieces and arranged it?

Ed Bland:   Not for some other set of instruments, no, I haven’t.

BD:   I just wondered if you could possibly do that, or if you’d worry about tampering with it for a different situation.

Ed Bland:   It would be a different composition, because I consider the color of the sound to be one of the compositional elements.  Any time you change, say, a string quartet to a woodwind quintet, even though it’s got the same pitch and rhythmic relationships, it’s a different composition in my mind.

BD:   Have some of your pieces been arranged by others?

Ed Bland:   Not any of my serious stuff.  They have trouble enough listening one time through.  [Laughs]  On the other hand, for some of the commercial compositions I’ve gotten notices from various rap groups that want to sample something I did.  For example, many years ago I got a letter in the mail about something I wrote called Grits and Gravy.  I
d forgotten Id even written it, but they were asking for permission, so we worked out a situation where they could use it.

BD:   [Gently protesting]  But you said those kinds of things weren’t really you.

Ed Bland:   Yes, but they had a personality stamp.  It was not me 100%.  It’s like being in a boxing ring and pulling your punches.

BD:   What advice do you have for young composers or arrangers coming along, and would it be different in each case?

Ed Bland:   Just learn your craft.  If you think you have something to say, be stubborn and pursue it.  It may turn out to be absolutely nothing, but you won
t rest easy until you know whether you have something to say, and if it’s of any worth.  Be honest with yourself, and youll know exactly where you stand if you give yourself the chance.  If you don’t give yourself a chance, your life is gone.

BD:   You’ve written some pieces which touch on political situations, and we
ll come to that in a moment.  First, let me ask a different kind of question.  Is music in and of itself political?

Ed Bland:   The best politics, the best propaganda is good art.  Then it starts getting less and less effective propagandistically as the art starts getting bad.  However, once you leave the universe of instrumental music, and start putting words with music, you’re in a completely different ballgame.  It’s the rules of excellence and construction that rule the roost, and a more abstract instrumental situation is not what’s going to make the engine move in a musical theater situation.  There the words rule, and then the problem is how to fit the music around whatever the literary argument is in the larger sense, be it movies, theater, dramatic sketches, or songs.

BD:   Do the words put the musician in a straitjacket?

Ed Bland:   Not necessarily a straitjacket, but the composer is not leading the charge in terms of the creative arguments going on.  Just by the nature of the thing, words have much more meaning to most people.

BD:   So the music is supportive?

Ed Bland:   Right.  The music is integrated in a supportive way, and is maybe even in some ways in advance at times.  But it can never be as imaginative and as important as if it stood on its own rank, and on its own feet.

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althea waites
BD:   When you write a composition and then give it to the performers, how much leeway do you expect in terms of interpretation?

Ed Bland:   That comes eventually with my work, but first I’m worried about whether they can play it.  I write in such a way that you have got to stay concentrated with what you’re doing.  If your mind wanders for a little bit, you’re lost, and there’s no easy way to get back into the piece.  So you have to devote yourself to the execution of the piece for whatever period of time you’re involved with it.  Usually, what that means is counting 1, 2, 3, and 4.  [Laughs]  A lot of musicians have trouble counting 1, 2, 3, and 4, or sometimes even counting measures.  It’s very difficult.

BD:   Do you write your pieces specifically to be difficult, or is that just the only way they can be put down on the paper?

Ed Bland:   As long as I’m sure that it expresses me, then I’ll get that complexity down in some way.  Then what I try to do is make it as easy as possible once I have the objective pattern down.  If I can’t make it easy, then so be it.  There are musicians, especially in New York, who are chamber music specialists, and their attitude is a strange one.  In a way, they feel there’s nothing written that they can’t play on their instrument, so bring it on!  That attitude is actually a very humble one, given that bravado, because before the first rehearsal, they’ll take their part home and practice it for 2 weeks.

BD:   They’ll really learn it.

Ed Bland:   Right, so they’re ready to go for the first rehearsal.  You usually don’t find that type of attitude except at the top, the cream of the crop for each position of every instrument.  There’s a richness there, which you’ll find nowhere else in the world.  They
re ready to go to war with the piece.

BD:   So the music starts after they get the notes and the technique.

Ed Bland:   Right, right, right.  Then, if it’s with a conductor, he sees ways of being expressive and bringing out things.  Likewise, with solo instrumentalists.  For example, it took Althea Waites about 3 years before she really got the Sketches down.  She had the notes, but there are so many subtleties that she hadn’t gotten.  Now she owns it.  [See the CD cover at left.]

BD:   10 years from now, will she own it even more?

Ed Bland:   I don’t know.  It all depends.  She may stop playing it, but given that she keeps playing it, we’ll see.  By then I’ll have another problem for her.  [Both laugh]

BD:   Which she’ll work on solving.  Could you write something that would be impossible to play?

Ed Bland:   That’d be quite easy to do.

BD:   But you’d have no interest in doing it?

Ed Bland:   Not for that sake, no.  Even though some of my stuff is difficult, it comes nowhere near being as difficult as some of the stuff of Elliott Carter.  He is difficult.

BD:   Let me ask the big philosophical question.  What’s the purpose of music?

Ed Bland:   It strikes me that this goes under the whole idea of the purpose of the creative arts.  Initially, an artist is a bringer of bad news, especially if he’s hitting on any values or nerves that are serious.  People are set in their ways, and what he considers himself doing is discovering new relationships, and new values.  In so doing, and bringing these to the fore, there are people who are going to be both threatened and upset.  They would much rather have a more peaceful, albeit even a fantasy world, than to deal with the type of thing that an artist is bringing.  I feel the artist has a responsibility to see it, to say it, and make it as palatable as possible in terms of the difficulty of playing it, and also the difficulty of comprehension.  My stuff is unpredictable and quite comprehensive at the same time, and by making it unpredictable, people are incensed, but hopefully they can see some relationships which they find rewarding as a consequence.

BD:   Then is music the ultimate reality?

Ed Bland:   It’s the ultimate reality for me in a musical sense.  It’s the way in which I’m most interested in expressing my concerns about life.

BD:   [Genuinely concerned]  Is there nothing good about life?  Can’t you be a bearer of good news once in a while?

Ed Bland:   It depends on where the person in the audience is.  There are those for whom the bearer of bad news is good news, because they see the fact that there’s a truth being spoken.  There are relationships which are
openers for them.  But in general, especially nowadays, given the kind of Dr. Feel Good mentality that’s been in this country ever since we became a national security state since about the ’50s, people have to feel good.  So rather than be bombarded with dealing with the problem, they want to find ways of escaping.  So, then they start using music, and all the arts, as narcotics in a way, unfortunately.

BD:   [Making a joke]  The Arts as Muzak?

Ed Bland:   A lot of serious music I find to be Muzak in various ways.

BD:   That’s an oxymoron.

Ed Bland:   You better believe it!

BD:   Is the concert music that you write, for everyone?

Ed Bland:   For everyone that can stand it.  [Laughs]  Yes, ultimately it’s for everyone.  I have no exclusivity in mind.  I just hope that they’re brave enough to deal with it.  That’s all.

BD:   What do you expect of the audience besides bravery?

Ed Bland:   Just to pay attention, that’s all.  Nothing else.  I don’t want to bring any preconceptions about what the music should do, or ask them to try to understand it intellectually.  That’s technical.  I hope they just listen and concentrate on what’s going on there, and respond as honestly as they can.  That’s all I can do, and that’s all I want.  Then they can hate it, and that
s fine.

BD:   [Somewhat shocked]  You don’t mind people hating your music???

Ed Bland:   No.  No.

BD:   You don’t do anything to try and persuade them to your viewpoint?

Ed Bland:   If they see what the viewpoint is, they ought to be persuaded.  If that’s not sufficient, then that’s not sufficient.  On the other hand, it depends on what strategy I’m taking.  If I’m writing something that’s supposed to be more accessible, then it’s easy enough for me to write something quite colorful and quite lyrical.

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BD:   I assume you get a number of commissions.  How do you decide if you’ll accept them or turn them aside?

Ed Bland:   The last two I’ve gotten I didn’t want to do, but outside forces made me do them.

BD:   Were you ultimately glad that you wound up doing them?

Ed Bland:   Yes, both of them, but that’s the interesting thing about it.  Those were the two most important ones in terms of the politics of the musical scene that I was in at the time.  That was the most important thing, and the most significant pieces I’ve written from my viewpoint.  But I haven’t been at the point where I’ve been so overwhelmed by commissions that I’ve had the luxury of turning them down.  So I just take them.

BD:   Is composing fun?

Ed Bland:   Yes.  I wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t fun.  In fact, even when I had to do 132 arrangements of the Mantovani, that was a lot of drudgery. It was the first time I was getting close to feeling that I didn’t have any more ideas to do anything. But it never really got to the point where I would say,
I’m sick and tired of music, and I just want to take a day or a week off.  I never got that feeling.  I had to do the job, and it wouldn’t have been honorable to walk out on it.

BD:   [Recalling that Philip Glass had done this...]  It was better than driving a taxi cab...

Ed Bland:   Yes, [laughs] and at that time I couldn’t even drive a car!

BD:   Do you have ideas for new compositions all the time?

Ed Bland:   Yes.  There’s a real large orchestral piece that I wish to get off the boards, then I’m behind on a commission for Michele Zukovsky, who is a principal clarinetist of the L.A. Philharmonic.  Then there’s a crossover classical record that I’m going to be recording on Delos, and I’m behind on the piano piece for that as well.

BD:   Do you ever come up with an idea, then put it in a drawer, and years later take it out and feel that it’s been waiting all that time for your next piece?

Ed Bland:   It’s interesting you brought that up.  Quite recently I was looking through some of my old notebooks, and I saw what I thought was a little harmony exercise.  It was tonal, but in blues form, and it was very sophisticated in terms of the harmonic implications.  It was very Monkish.  As I was listening, I wondered why I copied this thing of Monk’s so many years ago.  So, I got in touch with some musician friends, and I played it and asked them if it was Monk.  They said it wasn’t.  I tried three or four different jazz musicians who really knew the stuff, and they said Monk would not have done this.  They started showing me the options and the stylistic differences between the way he would have gone, and the way I did.  With that in mind, I ended up writing a piece that I called Passacaglia in Blue.  But that was something that I didn’t even recognize.  I can’t remember why I did it.  It must have been for some exercise.  I had something I was trying to prove at that time, but it was so long ago, I can’t even remember what it is or why it was there.  It was just lying there, so I tried it out, and it worked.

BD:   You don’t believe in the inevitability, that it had to sit in your drawer for a certain amount of time, and you had to find it at this moment?

Ed Bland:   No, no.  I really have trouble dealing with anything that’s inevitable.

BD:   Is it not inevitable that you’d be a musician?

Ed Bland:   No.  [Pauses a moment before coming back to the discussion]  I was working on a score of A Raisin in the Sun, and it was a hellish job situation.  The people were very nice, but there was a hellish amount of pressure.  There was one director who had very good ideas, and there were two producers whose ideas were not necessarily good.  One was a lover of Lorraine Hansberry, and considered himself the guardian of A Raisin in the Sun.  On any major production, or recording, or filming of that work, he’s there making sure that it wasn’t done in a way that subtracts from its artistic worth.  So, he’d be a real pain.

BD:   I wonder if she would have liked that.

Ed Bland:   [Laughs]  Well, that’s another story.  But he had ideas which were usually corny.  Really, though, he’s a nice man.  The other guy, who was an old friend of mine and was also very nice, was battling with him about what should happen with the music.  Then the director had his own ideas, which I saw as the only valid artistic ideas.  So I was juggling these three things, and it got to be quite ridiculous.  Everybody was frequently in different parts of the country, so at 3 o’clock in the morning, I’d be getting a call about a given cue, and then I would get a call maybe 2 hours later from somebody else from another part of the country about some other section.  But any time they bothered me, they went on the clock.  That was the money thing.  If I wrote 15 scores simultaneously, it didn’t matter because they were paying for all 15 at Golden Time.  In talking with the director, there was an idea he had for the Love Theme, which I thought was quite good in terms of how to approach it dramatically.  I’d written it down, and the other two people heard it and said,
Oh, no, no, no, no!  I could see it was a big thing that would be developing, so of course I wrote all three.  Eventually, I went to my trunk and got an old thing I considered very corny, that I’d written when I first tried to write a popular song right after getting out of school.  I thought, “If they go for this, theyre fools.”  So, I played it for them, and they said, Ah... yeah!  [Both laugh]  Everybody just loved it.  That’s another trunk experience.  Later it was included in the Bunky Green album called Healing the Pain, which I produced [shown below].

BD:   [Noticing that the time had come when we needed to stop]  Thank you for being a composer.

Ed Bland:   Thank you for having me on your program.  It
s been great.

bunky green

© 1992 Bruce Duffie

This conversation was recorded in Chicago on April 1, 1992.  Portions were broadcast on WNIB in 1999; on WNUR in 2012, and 2015; and on Contemporary Classical Internet Radio in 2012.  This transcription was made in 2023, and posted on this website at that time.

To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been transcribed and posted on this website, click here.  To read my thoughts on editing these interviews for print, as well as a few other interesting observations, click here.

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Award - winning broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001.  His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since 1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM, as well as on Contemporary Classical Internet Radio.

You are invited to visit his website for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of other interviews, plus a full list of his guests.  He would also like to call your attention to the photos and information about his grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a century ago.  You may also send him E-Mail with comments, questions and suggestions.