Tuesday, June 2, 2009

for thelonious monk

remembering thelonious "sphere" monk
(1917 - 1982)

dizzy, he was screamin'
next to o.p. who was beamin';
monk was thumpin'

there was something about his hearing,
this one soon to
be proclaimed hierophant
of bebop. heir to the stride
masters, exemplar
of avante garde’s kinetic & tonal
he heard what others couldn’t; felt the energy
a tune’s motion. self-taught, he led with his
ears, learned
to play at nine & comped for a
faith-healing evangelist
adding pentacostal
extensions to dominant chords,
healing them,
raising them from the dead, lowering them
involutionary substance,into special harmonic
tensions, hearing, then playing tones between
drawing him near to others like himself –
two other
thaumaturges specifically, bound
together by friendship
& different glimpses of
a fractured vision, formed a
triumvirate; he,
with bud powell & silvester st. elmo hope,
together; stayed together for a time until stepping

forth from their listening/practice shaped, formed
by the
experience – bud of the powerful attack,
the rippling
triplets, deep octave chords & 16th
note runs, elmo with
the probing, intricate
harmonies & sure technique,
thelonious with wry
constructions & cascading runs
bottoming into
witty discords.

there was something about his hearing. he took
in more
than vibes transduced & translated by the
brain. took in
that which came with those vibes –
the close fitting
acoustical frequencies higher &
lower than fundamental,
the subdued tonal colors
that thumped the tympanic
membrane in codes &
cadences unheard/unfelt by others.
monk was
thumpin’,rocked by an audition that split
semitones into quartertones in an experience of
“rightness” of far-out pitches sounded together–
something like the blues but emancipating the

dissonance, the sensation of beats & disturbances,
percussive rhythmic displacements, the inter-
actions in the
peripheries ‘tween partial tones
making him ready to
meet & collaborate with bird
& diz, letting him hear even
more than they, letting
him hear the wholeness of their
respective visions
to provide the fills, to inject the
sardonic humor,
to set in place the shifting structures &
changing asymmetrical forms of bebop – to
ride with
them, self-realize; become a living enlightened

medium & emancipate the music of true & spiritual


©Joseph McNair; 2008

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