Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Salzburg and Rocky Mount

Recently, my wife and I watched a documentary on Salzburg, a beautiful city in Austria where Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in 1756. Despite its many other charms, Salzburg lives on with Mozart events and memorabilia as its major economic driver. Mozart’s musical legacy is alive and well throughout the world.
Viennese Monk by Robert De Graaf, based on
Schubert at the Piano by Gustav Klimt

Thelonious Sphere Monk was born on this date, October 10th, 101 years ago in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Last year there were many celebrations marking the centennial of his birth. I am now listening to his music, courtesy of Brian Delp and WBGO in Newark, and at this week’s Acqualoreto Happy Hour this evening, I will be toasting his memory. I hope that more than two and a half centuries after his birth, as with Mozart, Monk’s music will still be heard and appreciated. At 1.01 C along, I’m trying to do my part.

By the time he was five years old, Mozart was taken on an extended performing tour of major European cities by his father. By the time he was five, Monk had been taken by his mother from Rocky Mount to New York City, where he remained for the rest of his life. NYC has honored his presence by renaming a portion of West 63rd St. where he lived, as Thelonious Monk Circle. We doubt that Monk’s birth has had as much of an impact on Rocky Mount as Mozart’s has had on Salzburg, but it’s never too late.

All places go through ups and downs. Salzburg became the performance home for many of the favored musicians of the Third Reich after WWII but by now most of those people have faded from the scene and Salzburg, unsullied, thrives on its Mozart and chocolate.

Despite its history as the birthplace of aviation, as well as its being the site of many fine universities, North Carolina is currently known as the most gerrymandered state in the Union and at the forefront of voter suppression. Those evils must be eradicated but maybe Rocky Mount could take the lead in restoring some decency to the state’s reputation by establishing a Monk Festival in honor of one of America’s greatest native musical geniuses. There is a Monk Foundation, gathering funds for a life sized statue of Monk for Rocky Mount, but NC needs to do more to clean up its act and this is an opportunity.