Plans, Takes, and Mis-takes
This paper analyzes what may have been a mistake by
pianist Thelonious Monk playing a jazz solo in 1958.
Even in a Monk composition designed for patterned
mayhem, a note can sound out of pattern. We reframe
the question of whether the note was a mistake and ask
instead about how Monk handles the problem. Amazingly,
he replays the note into a new pattern that resituates
its jarring effect in retrospect. The mistake, or
mis-take, was “saved” by subsequent notes.
Our analysis, supported by reflections from jazz musicians
and the philosopher John Dewey, encourages a
reformulation of plans, takes, and
mis-takes as categories
for the interpretation of contingency, surprise, and
repair in all human activities. A final section suggests
that mistakes are essential to the practical plying and
playing of knowledge into performances, particularly
those that highlight learning.
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