Some music is so beautiful that words just seem—no matter what you say—tawdry.
Chopin, Nocturne Op. 27, No. 2 in D flat Major (1836)/Dinu Lipatti (1917-1950), piano
Want to hear Thelonious Monk play Chopin? Go here (a home recording [click on "LISTEN TO THELONIOUS PLAYING CHOPIN"]).
Like all his [Monk's] nieces and nephews, Teeny [Benetta Smith] treated her uncle as an uncle—not as some eccentric genius or celebrity. During one of her many visits in 1959 or ’60, when she was about twelve years old, Teeny noticed a book of compositions by Chopin perched on her uncle’s rented Steinway baby grand piano. Monk’s piano was notorious for its clutter. It occupied a significant portion of the kitchen and extended into the front room. The lid remained closed, since it doubled as a temporary storage space for music, miscellaneous papers, magazines, folded laundry, dishes, and any number of stray kitchen items.
Teeny thumbed through the pages of the Chopin book, then turned to her uncle and asked, ‘What are you doing with that on the piano? I thought you couldn’t read music? You can read that?’ The challenge was on. In response, Monk sat down at the piano, turned to a very difficult piece, and started playing it at breakneck speed.
‘His hands were a blur,’ she recalled decades later.—Robin D. G. Kelley, Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original (2009)