Inspiration: Rhapsody in Blue
Much of the inspiration for the work came to him during a train journey to Boston, "with its steely rhythms, its rattlety-bang . . . I suddenly heard - and even saw on paper - the complete construction of the rhapsody from beginning to end. I heard it as a sort of musical kaleidoscope of America - of our vast melting pot, of our unduplicated national pep, of our blues, our metropolitan madness." The actual music was written in a week on his return to New York.
How Rhapsody came to be:
Sometime in late 1923, the bandleader, Paul Whiteman, asked George Gershwin to think about writing a jazz piece for his band. Gershwin gave it some thought, sketched some possible themes, and left it at that. On January 4, 1924 to his surprise, a report appeared in the New York Tribune announcing that George Gershwin was at work on a "jazz concerto" to be premiered by the Whiteman Band at the Aeolian Hall in New York on February 12, in a concert to be called An Experiment in Modern Music. At the time, he was in the thick of his Broadway commitments and the jazz concerto was barely more than a thought, but Gershwin's genius rose to the occasion. He would later point to the rhythm and rattle of the Boston train he was once on as the source of his rhythmic ideas, and to James McNeill Whistler's painting Nocturne in Black and Gold as the inspiration for Rhapsody's title.