Monday, January 15, 2007

Feeling It: Alice Coltrane / Turiyasangitananda

Yesterday I heard the word that Alice Coltrane passed last Friday from Cherryl's blog and then saw it confirmed in the news. I don't have many words, but do feel the need to say something about this, having been profoundly moved by her work, as have so many people. Coltrane's Journey in Satchidananda holds a special place for me because of the ways it can mystically and consistently heal me. It never ceases to amaze me that no matter is going wrong, when I'm soul sick, I can put on this album and something will begin to shift within me. I know I'm not alone in this. So many others have mentioned it in passing. There's a science to it that I don't quite understand, but I think it has to do with the balancing of the gravity of Cecil McBee's bass playing and the lightness of Alice Coltrane's harp and piano playing. But perhaps that is just what I can hear.

This summer, I mentioned to Keith that the person I thought it would be most meaningful for me to hear in person would be Alice Coltrane. About a month later, we started seeing her picture around town and we read in Essence that she not only had a new album out but also would be playing in Newark. We of course picked up the CD and knew we had to go to the concert. Translinear Light comes decades later and has a different sound, but Coltrane's healing science is still at work. There is a certain peace I have while listening to "Sita Ram" -- particularly when she plays the lower frequencies on the organ. In fact, hearing it live when she played in Newark was particularly powerful because we could feel the frequencies physically moving us. I play "Sita Ram" and "Satya Sai Isha" frequently, both because they move me and because I want to understand how they move me. They are both Hindu hymns played as if they are Black American Christian hymns. Or perhaps I should say that is how I hear them.

Or maybe I should say what I really mean. The too simple way to say it is that I knew it would be meaningful for me to see Coltrane live (and not just listen to her album) because I appreciate the ways she is black and universal. It's not just about the ways she brings Black American and Indian musical traditions together, but that is a focusing point for my attention. I have more to say about her but I'll stop here. I'm going to participate in some MLK day events. Later, I'll come back to AC and James Brown. Love to all, Mendi


Blogger John K said...

I love, love, love her music. I've loved it from the first time I heard it. It is the quintessence of spiritual music to me. I already miss her. I think I've listened to "Turiya and Ramakrishna," "Blue Nile," and "Shiva Loka" about 10 times since I learned she'd passed.

2:03 AM, January 18, 2007  
Blogger Mendi O. said...

You know, John, I feel the same way. I've been playing and replaying her version of "Leo" from Translinear Light and remembering her playing it in Newark since I heard the news. Interesting, because I had thought I liked so many other works on that album more, but I think those low tones, the power and force of them, and the quick movements of the higher tones put me more in the mind of transition, of communing with the dead. I've been thinking that it's so sad that she should go now, a she has been bringing a message of peace and the planet is so embattled, but at the same time, I've been thinking a lot about death and what it means to me to have ancestors. And so now feeling sad about her passing just doesn't seem right. She was here. She left her mark. What a beautiful and necessary mark it is.

2:28 AM, January 18, 2007  
Blogger evie said...


you should know that i downloaded her "journey" cd not long after you recommended it to me, and have dropped deep into it. when i listen to it, it's like my own thought(s). maybe it's the earphones, but i don't think so. i feel attuned to its frequency. have you been listening to it very recently?


3:14 PM, February 12, 2007  
Blogger Mendi O. said...

only everyday

1:02 PM, February 13, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If John C. was the river where the Spirit sails, Alice was the ocean.

(don't forget Pharoah...he was great in Ptah... and specially Journey... )

8:27 PM, August 28, 2008  

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