Monk ABC

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“The loudest noise in the world is silence.” – Thelonius Monk.

Monk ABC is an intriguing book of over 100 quotations from jazz pianist and composer Thelonius Monk (1917-1982). It’s an improbable book because Monk spoke as little as possible, and not at all for the last few years of his life.

The quotes were gleaned from the testimonies of people who knew and played music with Monk rather than direct quotes drawn from interviews, because he avoided most of those.

Many of the quotes in the book are attempts to avoid explaining music in words, and to recommend people simply listen to the music and find their answers there. Monk said: “Trying to explain music is like trying to dance architecture.”

Following an improvisation that went badly, Monk explained: “I made the wrong mistakes.”

“The piano ain’t got no wrong notes. Some are just more right than others.”

In response to someone saying the be-bop Monk played was ‘weird’:

“Weird means something you’ve never heard before. It’s weird until people get around to it. Then it ceases to be weird.”