He is on the stage; the audience is cheering, and so are the producers and the biographer backstage. His fingers create real magic. Thelonious Monk was an American Jazz pianist and composer famous for his unorthodox approach to music. He was the founder of Bebop and redefined jazz through improvisation.
At a gig, he would get up from the piano and dance around in circles, fall asleep at the keyboard, or stare into the sky in front of the audience while the band was still playing. He could get away with anything.
“The piano ain’t got no wrong notes!” He once said.
He was missing keys and playing all the wrong notes— but it was wrong enough to make it feel right. The trick was to take the third and fifth out of a major seventh chord and to play just the root and major seventh. He had small hands, but he managed to play different dynamics in different fingers, creating overtones.
It is amazing how he achieved things so effortlessly.
My pen isn’t moving; my brain is blank, and so are the papers in front of me. The room is spinning, I think to myself, I should have something other than roasted sunflower seeds for lunch. I haven’t had a decent meal for days —I’ve slept through all of them. It’s been hours, and I still don’t know what to write about.
When I am struggling with writer’s block, I stand up from my desk and walk around in circles, fall asleep to Netflix, or stare at the ceiling, imagining it to be a sky full of stars. Either I come up with something, or I rot in this room. There’s no way out.
“Everything is wrong,” I say to myself.
I can’t make music out of wrong notes, just like I can’t turn stones into gold. I wish I were a jazz musician instead of a writer.
“My muse has disappeared. I starved her to death.” I text my friend.
“Less whining and more writing.” He texts back.
Monk’s distinctive sound, his approach to the piano, was deliberate and well thought-out. He methodically developed the idea of creating harmony out of dissonance. All these techniques, which are too hard to be counted with ten fingers— derive from unceasing practice.
“Mistakes” are made deliberately, with practice and experience— It’s not easy for Monk to be Monk.
It takes a lot of effort to be effortless.