Monk Music

MONK MUSIC

Mathematics and jazz; could the coupling be worse?
Jazz; not music of verse – chorus – verse.
Thelonious Monk – resonant name;
on “Bag’s Groove”, say, at the top of his game.
Marcus Du Sautoy listens, ecstatic.
Euclid’s Theorem! Infinite mathematics!
Monk’s random plonking is the key,
unlocking the secret. There could be
an infinite series of the primes;
chords in harmony, chords that chime.
This be the verse, these are the rhymes;
these are the numbers, by Monk in his prime.
Discordant tunes, escaping the ears;
creating the music of the spheres.

Serendipity is often influential in the creation of a poem, I find.  I was listening to an interview on the radio with the British mathematician and writer Marcus du Sautoy, in which he spoke of his enthusiasm for all forms of music, including jazz (he plays the trumpet himself, and several other instruments).  He was also publicising his latest book, and he spoke of the excitement engendered by recent developments in mathematics that hinted at a possible infinite series of prime numbers.  Later on, that same day, I heard an interview with the British poet Ian McMillan.  He was enthusing about his love of jazz music – particularly Thelonious Monk – and said that listening to Monk gave him the impression that, at any time, an infinite number of improvisations could emerge.  The random occurrence of these two interviews produced the above poem.

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