Sam Stephenson

Sam Stephenson is a writer and documentarian who grew up in Washington, North Carolina. In addition to his books, Sam has written for the New York Times, the Paris Review, Tin House, among others, and is the founder of Rock Fish Stew. He was 2010 and 2015 ASCAP Deems Taylor / Virgil Thomson Prize winner.

November 10, 2007

Celebrating the idiosyncratic genius of Thelonious Monk, born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, on October 10, 1917.

In a remarkable 1963 appearance with Juilliard professor and friend, Hall Overton, at the New School in New York, Monk demonstrated his technique of “bending” or “curving” notes on the piano, the most rigidly tempered of instruments. He drawled notes like a human voice and blended them (playing notes C and C-sharp at the same time, for example) to create his own dialect. Overton told the audience, “That can’t be done on piano, but you just heard it.” He then explained that Monk achieved it by adjusting his finger pressure on the keys, the way baseball pitchers do to make a ball’s path bend, curve, or dip in flight.