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Plans, Takes, and Mis-takes

Nathaniel Klemp, Ray McDermott, Jason Duque, Matthew Thibeault, Kimberly Powell et Daniel J. Levitin
p. 105-120


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 better, the 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, 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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Notes de l’auteur

This paper began when Levitin analyzed a wrong note played by McCoy Tyner for a class at Stanford University. McDermott was in that class and became excited by similarities in the analysis of mistakes in jazz and social interaction. Powell and Naoki Ueno aided the analysis of Tyner's mistake, and Fred Erickson gave valuable advice. Duque introduced Monk's wrong note as a more complex object of analysis. Klemp transcribed the Tyner and the three Monk recordings and wrote a detailed description. Thibeault created a second transcript and transformed the visuals. McDermott carried the final voice, but everyone contributed thinking and editing. Nick Fiori, Stephanie Rico, Reed Stevens, and Scott Stonington offered great comments. Eric Bredo, and Morton Nissen pushed us on key issues. Roy Pea supplied the nice quotes from Monk and Coltrane. We greatly appreciate Tim Koschmann for bring our paper to Éducation & Didactique.

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Terms, off and on key
A take, a mis-take, and a save
The Sequential Organization of Activities

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A mistake is the most beautiful thing in the world. It is the only way you can get to some place you've never been before. I try to make as many as I can. Making a mistake is the only way that you can grow.
Drummer E. W. Wainwright (conversation with Klemp, 2001)

Conceptions and systems of conceptions, ends in view and plans, are constantly making and remaking as fast as those already in use reveal their weaknesses, defects and positive values.
Philosopher John Dewey (1929/1984, pp. 133-134)

… overzeal to select materials and appliances which forbid a chance for mistakes to occur, restricts initiative, reduces judgment to a minimum, and compels the use of methods which are so remote from the complex situations of life that the power gained is of little availability.
John Dewey (1916a, p. 198)

There are no mistakes on the bandstand.
Vibraphonist Stefon Harris (2011)

This paper analyzes a difficult...

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Référence papier

Nathaniel Klemp, Ray McDermott, Jason Duque, Matthew Thibeault, Kimberly Powell et Daniel J. Levitin, « Plans, Takes, and Mis-takes », Éducation et didactique, 10-3 | 2016, 105-120.

Référence électronique

Nathaniel Klemp, Ray McDermott, Jason Duque, Matthew Thibeault, Kimberly Powell et Daniel J. Levitin, « Plans, Takes, and Mis-takes », Éducation et didactique [En ligne], 10-3 | 2016, mis en ligne le 19 décembre 2016, consulté le 22 janvier 2018. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/educationdidactique.2598

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Nathaniel Klemp

LIFE Cross Training, Boulder

Ray McDermott

School of Education, Stanford University

Jason Duque

Gevirtz Graduate School of Education, University of California, Santa Barbara

Matthew Thibeault

School of Music, University of Florida

Kimberly Powell

School of Visual Arts and College of Education, Pennsylvania State University

Daniel J. Levitin

Minerva Schools at KGI

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