Explaining Monk’s Music

Thanks to Chad Linsley for the comments on my posts (here and here).

Here is an excerpt, and my response below:

“From a jazz arranging perspective, Monk is deliberately “breaking” a cardinal “avoid minor 9ths” rule on this E9sus4(add3) chord. Thad Jones loved this sound. In closed position, this chord has a minor second between the top two voices which is a “no-no” in harmonizing four part block. These examples brilliantly illustrate Monk’s love of minor ninths/seconds… You raise a very interesting question as to whether Monk was playing a wrong note by accident or on purpose.”

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Thanks Chad!

I think it’s all deliberate.  Their frequency and consistency imply that Monk had it worked out.  I call them “wrong notes” only because they go against everything music theory teaches us!

Is it possible to have a music theory that encapsulates everything that’s beautiful?  I’m not sure… But if someone wanted to develop a theory that includes Monk’s music, he/she would have to look above and beyond traditional harmony and counterpoint; there’s a greater architecture happening in his music.

I love this quote from Stravinsky’s The Poetics of Music, and I think it’d be a great place to start:

“All music being nothing but a succession of impulses and repose, it is easy to see that the drawing together and separation of poles of attraction in a way determine the respiration of music.”

Consonance and dissonance; tension and release; sound and silence.  How does Monk mess with these poles of attraction and how does he differ from everyone else?

Ruby, My Dear1

Ruby, My Dear1a

This chord from Ruby my Dear could be written: E9sus4(add3) or D-triad/E-triad, but those symbols don’t fully explain what’s happening.  For that kind of explanation, I think there needs to be a “bigger picture” perspective.  What do you think?

I’m glad you’re enjoying; thanks for the comments!

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