This is just another way of saying, however, that at a certain point I stopped researching Crepuscule W/ Nellie in a conventional sense, and, like a jazz improviser, trusted that my imagination, courtesy of dedicated practice, had acquired enough muscle memory to perform under the duress of having to make something new out of something overly familiar. The more I paid attention to the factual in Crepuscule W/ Nellie, the more it wanted to arrange itself around possibilities that history, on its own, had already precluded. What if Charlie Parker had died not in the Baroness’s Fifth Avenue hotel room (The Stanhope) but at her Weehawken, NJ home? And what if that home were an estate? And what if Monk were living, perhaps unbeknownst to him, in Charlie Parker’s old room? What was the nature of Monk’s celebrity during the darkest years of his career? Who might the Monk’s neighbors been, and who might the Monks have been to those neighbors? What had Nellie done, and who had she been, before she met and married Thelonious Monk? What life and what commitments might she have given up in taking his name? To answer these questions (and others not enumerated here), my research had to diverge again, away from the constellation of individuals orbiting Monk and into the history of specific geographies (Harlem; the “chitlin circuit”), movements (pre-Civil Rights-era black activism; Modernism) and discourses (Depression-era vernaculars; the new science elaborated in Helmholtz’s On the Sensations of Tone).
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