Wednesday17 Jan 01:41 PM
The Passing Of A Divine Muse: In Honor Of Swamini Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda
As you may have heard or read (NYT|LAT|BB) Swamini Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda died last week. She was a spiritual being who left us within an amazing, incredibly unique, uplifting body of musical recordings. (And I speak mainly of her amazing 60's & 70's Impulse! recordings... if anyone has access to her later-era bhajans please turn me/us on!)
As a jazz musician and composer alone, she remains a remarkable and enthralling voice. Fusing of the best components (and players) from be-bop and a free jazz with her magnetic affinity for Indian musical theory and instrumentation, she created a music born of both. It was no happenstance mishmash, the music was pure bhakti.
She is most popularly known as John Coltrane's life partner, wife, and muse. Also commonly known: John Coltrane was a deeply spiritual person. Thus any discussion of Swamini's spirituality must understand John as a bedrock and seed towards her life's work of deep spiritual wisdom, understanding and growth (see Circling Om: An Exploration of John Coltrane's Later Works).
Question: The brilliance of John Coltrane —Amiri Baraka has referred to him as the heaviest spirit in the universe. My husband, Khephra, says when he first heard Meditations he cried. What do you think John was saying through his music?
Alice Coltrane: He was saying, "Dedicate your life to God, for all is with God." He'd had a spiritual experience and this pointed all of his musical endeavors toward A Love Supreme.... John dedicated himself completely to God through such albums as Om and Meditations, and songs like "Dear Lord," "Offering," "Peace on Earth," "Song of Praise," and so many other spiritual compositions.
A.C. Turiyasangitananda on Essence.com
John Coltrane introduced Alice to Eastern philosophy and mysticism and nutured in her the notion that music is as an expression/transmission of reality, divinity, and peace.
John knew that music fundamentally is a spiritual language that speaks to the heart and soul. Unfortunately, everyone cannot go to the mountain, or to isolation. But through music, people can go within their own heart and let their spirit soar, and maybe say, "Lord, at least through spiritual sound, I could possibly reach that open door that leads to your sacred domain." I felt that through John's compositions, and the sound of his instrument, this could pave the way to the righteous path, giving us a time for spiritual reflection, concentration, upliftment and revitalization. In India, there is a Name of God known as Nadabrahma. It means God as sound. God is sound.
A.C. Turiyasangitananda on Essence.com
Once John passed away, Alice took Synnyas. Her own experience and understanding of Truth lead her farther East, first becoming a devotee of Swami Satchidananda, founder of Integral Yoga; and later a disciple of Sathya Sai Baba. She later established the Sai Anantam Ashram in southern California.
Although I never personally experienced her kirtan nor have I heard her bhajans, they are said to be exquisite and deeply devotional.
The first time I heard the music of Alice Coltrane I melted into a puddle of bliss. Really. At that time I had k(no)w idea that this was some sort of authentic experience of a master's expression. I was just groovin. It was the early 1990's and a friend secretly placed the newly re-issued Impulse! record, Journey In Satchitananda, into the stereo and pressed play. It was still an era when magic things could happen when one pressed play.
Maybe her music can have an effect on you as well.
She had an increased presence in society last year. She played jazz shows in several metropolitan areas and appeared in a couple of spirituality-based magazines, including (cheesily, they both offer only a very brief excerpt online): Integral Yoga Magazine, Ascent Magazine (interviewed by Clea McDougall).
Please be nice.