Tag Archives: Radio

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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I Could Be Happy

The weather forcasters are currently forecasting snow for my part of the country, and it was the thought of snow – or, more specifically, hailstones – that reminded me of a poem I wrote a few years ago.  I was walking home, one day in May, when a shower of rain suddenly turned into hail.  I kept on walking, trying to ignore the hail, but the hailstones increased in size and velocity, and started “pinging” off the top of my head.  I ended up running the final stretch home, humming – for some unaccountable reason – an old pop song from my youth called “I Could Be Happy”.  I got home and switched the radio on – to hear none other than exactly the same song, immediately coming out of the speakers!  I stood, like a statue, listening until the song finished.  I remembered the name of the band that had the original hit: “Altered Images”, and that their lead singer was an attractive girl with a child-like voice.  I was then shocked by the rado presenter informing me that the song had been Number One in the pop charts on Christmas Day 1981.  I then started musing, sadly, about the ravages of time, and it was these thoughts, combined with the hailstones and the pop song, that inspired the following poem.

I COULD BE HAPPY:

White dandruff flakes
float down, scratched
from ashen curls
of the grey sky-god.

Then, cascading
white pellets.
A rapid fusillade,
pinging, stinging.

I run for home,
for some reason singing
“I could be happy.
I could be happy.”

Hailstones in May.
I open the door.
There is no way
this is funny any more.

Huge wet blotches
on my clothes.
I could be happy.
I could be happy.

Switch on the radio,
what do I hear?
“I could be happy.
I could be happy.”

Infectious rhythms,
washing over me.
Girl-child jigging
in front of my eyes.

Recall so vivid,
could be yesterday.
D.J. says “From
1981, Christmas Day.”

Twenty five years
have gone by!
In twenty five years
I shall be eighty!

Tears drop huge wet
blotches on my clothes.
I could be happy.
I could be happy.

Red eyes in the mirror
stare at grey stubble.
I could be happy.
I could be happy.

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