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fathers of the Bebop genre. Even though Monk was considered a legend, his musical skill often took backseat to his repu ted behavior. In this paper I will attempt to explain the possibilities of the m otivation for his behavior, and suggest some possible therapeutic methods that h e could have benefited from. Thelonious Sphere Monk was born October 10, 1917 in North Carolina. By the age o f nine he began to play melodies on the family piano and started teaching himsel f how to read music by watching over his sister’s piano lessons. Although the fami ly’s budget was tight, Monk’s mother worked doting jobs, scrubbing floors in order t o able to save up to buy a baby grand Steinway piano. By the age of eleven, Monk’s mother had saved enough money to pay for formal piano lessons for her son. At t his young age it was clear that piano was Monk’s passion in life. Monk s playing later transpired into something unique. His compositions and impr ovisations are full of unorthodox harmonies and melodic twists, which are consis tent with Monk s approach to the piano, which combined an attack of the notes, w ith abrupt and dramatic use of silences and hesitations. By the mid-1970s Monk had disappeared from the music scene, and made only a smal l number of appearances during the final decade of his life. In last couple year s of his life his health steadily declined. He died of a stroke on February 17, 1982, and was buried in New York. In 1993, he was posthumously awarded the Gramm y Lifetime Achievement Award. Personality Thelonious Monk was a prankster and often displayed strange behavior that someti mes got him into trouble. Two personality theories that best describe his behavi or would be Eysenck’s Three Dimensions of Personality theory and Abraham Maslow’s Se lf-actualization theory. Hans Eysenck developed a model of personality based upo n just three universal trails: introversion/extroversion, neuroticism/emotional stability, and pyschoticism. Introversion is directing attention on inner experi ences, while extraversion relates to focusing attention outward on other people and the environment. So, a highly introverted person might be quiet and reserved , while an extraverted individual might be sociable and outgoing. Neuroticism/em otional stability, is related to moodiness/even-temperedness. Neuroticism refers to an individual’s tendency to become upset or emotional, while stability refers to the tendency to remain emotionally constant. The third factor in explaining p ersonality is pyschoticism. Individuals who are high on this trait tend to have difficulty dealing with reality and may be antisocial. As for Thelonious Monk, it would be safe to say he was an extrovert. He lived to perform on the stage and it wasn’t uncommon for him to impulsively act a certain way to get a laugh. Eccentric behavior is really performance on his part. Monk w as most definitely neurotic; this can in part be blamed on his bipolar disorder. He would show extremem manic, creative phases, and at other times be depressed, and keep to himself. However, Monk did not demonstrate the factors of pyschotic ism (the third and finally trait). Thelonious was social, but never hostile or m anipulative. Abraham Maslow’s Self-actualization theory can also be used to explain Thelonious’s personality. The theory states that human beings are motivated by a hierarchy of needs. Given self esteem, we ultimately seek self-actualization, the process of fulfilling our potential. One characteristic of self-actualized people is the n eed for independence and privacy. While they enjoy the company of others, these individuals need time to focus on developing their own individual potential. Thi s explains why at times, Monk would step away from family and his band members f or days even weeks at a time to perfectly paint the a melody in his head onto a sheet of paper. During these phases he would disassociate himself from the worl d, and refuse to talk to anyone until he got his work done. Though this behavior could pass of as someone who is selfish, or inconsiderate of others, his drive for self-actualization, and being the best composer he could be, justifies it. Psychological Disorders
Monk got a laugh out of fooling people with his eccentric, impulsive beh avior. But not all of his bizarre actions were artifice. Thelonious suffered fro m bipolar disorder. Some people attribute depression or schizophrenia as the cha racteristics of a creative genius. However, various physical and mental ailments took a great toll on his health, in addition with poor medical treatment, an un healthy lifestyle, and the daily stresses of a working musician. Monk’s illness ma kes it appear as if he had a dual personality. One is Thelonious as a sincere, s traight-ahead, even brilliant man and musician, extremely accomplished, adored b y many. On the other hand, there are times when he appears a mentally ill, addic ted, and unreliable individual. Monk’s mental illnesses made his appearance to the media look crazy. Due to his bi polar disorder, at times he would experience manic phases where he would suddenl y have boundless energy engage in questionable and mischievous behavior. Though he was a mature man, he behaved as if there was a mischievous boy inside of him. He would play tricks on people. He would talk about you badly to your face. He would make people laugh by doing comical things. A good example is when he was p laying a gig and he reaches down to pull the whole mechanism out. That gets desc ribed as "This man s crazy—look at him tearing up the piano!" But in fact, he s tr ying to get the broken part out of the way. Monk’s behavior is impulsive, but some what logical. Another time he was posing for his painting for the cover of Time Magazine, and he keeps falling asleep. So the artist, Boris Chaliapin, says, "We ll, this guy s really eccentric—he s falling asleep while I m painting him." But h is schedule at the time, justifies his tiredness. ¬¬¬¬¬¬¬ Therapy Because Thelonious suffered from bipolar disorder, I would advise a drug therapy. With recent discoveries in psychopharmacology, antidepressant drugs co uld easily help with the depression that comes with bipolar disorder, also it co uld take away the need for him to be hospitalized. The drug I would prescribe wo uld be lithium. Lithium is a common drug used in the treatment of bipolar disord er. Lithium is a mood stabilizer. With continued use, the emotional highs and lo ws of the bipolar phases are returned to a typical level. With these extremes re turned to normal, hopefully Monk would find it easier to make it through his cre ative process, and could benefit his relationship with the media. Psychotherapy would be another effective therapy for Monk. Along with me dication, ongoing psychotherapy is an important part of treatment for bipolar di sorder. During therapy, you can discuss feelings, thoughts, and behaviors that c ause you problems. Talk therapy can help you understand and hopefully master any problems that hurt your ability to function well in life. It also helps you sta y on your medication, and helps you deal with effects of bipolar disorder on you r social life and career. It would also help maintain a positive self-image. Mon k could definitely use this in order to remain collected even throughout the hec tic lifestyle of a national-touring jazz musician coping with bipolar disorder. All in all, I think there are two things that I learned from studying Monk. One is that you should never be afraid of the truth. The second thing Monk taught me is the importance of slowing down. We live in a culture now that is built on so und bites. People don t even want to read a book from cover to cover; instead th ey ll go to the index to find out what they want to read about. Monk s whole ide al was, look, slow down. Learn one bar at a time. Play the whole song. Don t ski p the melody to go to the improvisation. Know the song. With Monk, there were no sound bites. Every moment in life was electric, and he made sure that people un derstood that.
Bibliography Giddins, Gary. Rhythm-A-Ning: Jazz Tradition and Innovation in the 80s. New York :
Oxford University Press, 1985. Gourse, Leslie. Straight, No Chaser: The Life and Genius of Thelonious Monk. New York: Schirmer Books, 1997. Kelley, Robin D. G. Thelonious Monk: the Life and times of an American Original. New York: Free, 2009. Print. Schermer, Victor L. "Robin D.G. Kelley on Thelonious Monk: The Man, the Myth, th e Music." All About Jazz. 25 Feb. 2010. Web. 25 Mar. 2011. <http://www.allaboutjaz z.com/php/article.php?id=35598&pg=3>.