A New World Music; Introduction; Sartre’s Dialectic; Symphonic Form; Global Guitar Theory; Global Guitar Practice; Global Guitar Justification; Global Guitar Elements; Global Guitar Motivation; Musical Mystic; Close to God.
A New World Music
Through extensive readings in Western Literature, Colin Wilson gained “the ability to embrace opposites,….from Shakespeare to Poe, from Dante to Whitman, from Chaucer to Auden.” (Foreword; Wholeness or Transcendence, 10) Similarly, Martin Luther King related music to a Hegelian dialectic: “life at its best is a creative synthesis of opposites in fruitful harmony.” (from A Testament of Hope, 491) During the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963 King envisioned as his thesis the transformation of “the jangling discords” of society into “a beautiful symphony”; antithetically, in the opening speech at the 1964 Berlin Jazz Festival, King stated: “in the particular struggle of the Negro in America there is something akin to the universal struggle of modern man. Everybody has the Blues. Everybody longs for meaning.”
In contrast, trumpeter Wynton Marsalis dismisses what he pejoratively refers to as “the blind embrace of ‘world music’.” (Moving to Higher Ground, 75) Note the contradiction with Marsalis’ earlier statement: “when you embrace the blues, no matter who you are, you’re embracing your own heritage as a human being.” (61) His implication is that white people are not fully human because they cannot play blues music authentically – that is, they cannot express pain. Marsalis: “To us, the blues….represented what we were trying to get away from: somebody moaning about his woman to hide the reality of white people’s foot stuck up his behind.” (56) Franklin Rosemont believes that “the blues is absolutely incompatible with puritanism.” (Blues and the Poetic Spirit, 10) Thomas Kochman cites a black jazz musician: “’I’m too much concerned with technique. You got to have the feeling if you really want to play the blues.’” (Black and White Styles in Conflict, 128)
Marsalis: “’Just to think of the arrogance behind a statement like, “I play world music”….You’re admitting that you’re giving non-specific, second-hand treatment to different types of music.’” (Jazz and Its Discontents, 217) Marsalis’ divisive comments reflect his cultural heritage: “[In] the late seventies, early eighties….Malcolm X’s ghost was riding the wind, and Black Nationalism was the chosen philosophy of every young black person of consciousness….Most black intellectual conversation I had experienced centered around black and white – black versus white….in the sixties and seventies…Black Nationalism was the language of the young and hip.” (Moving, 55, 57, 99)
Similarly, British cultural critic Paul Gilroy, in his 2000 book Against Race, reduces the genre of world music to a racial fantasy. “Some of Europe’s oldest romances with primitives and noble savages are being rekindled. What is euphemistically called ‘world music’ supplies this moment with a timely soundtrack. We can appreciate the hunger for cultural forms that stand outside the immorality and corruption of the over-developed world, but imprisoning the primitive other in a fantasy of innocence can only be catastrophic for all parties involved. This danger is compounded when the interests of the romantic consumers begin to converge with those of people inside the minority communities who want to enforce another definition of invariant (and therefore authentic) ethnicity for their own dubious disciplinary reasons.” (253)
As an alternative to Marsalis’ “blind embrace” and Gilroy’s inauthentic “fantasy of innocence” for “romantic consumers” I offer altruistic connoisseurs the following notes toward a definition of a new world music – an Indo-Euro-Afro Fusion called Global Guitar, or maybe Guitar Yoga. Marsalis’ accusation of “’arrogance” for “giving non-specific, second-hand treatment to different types of music” should be interpreted in context of Eric Nisenson’s recognition that “Marsalis has been accused of practicing ‘Crow Jim’ – the systematic exclusion of whites.” (Blue, 30) Carlos Santana: “I remember Wynton Marsalis saying that I shouldn’t even be on the same stage with Wayne Shorter because I was playing rock music.” Santana was a friend of Miles Davis, who declared jazz to be dead and who kicked Marsalis off the stage at the Vancouver Jazz Festival. I don’t think that Marsalis’ accusation is applicable to my genre. It occurred to me during a yoga class, which began and ended with a focus on breathing, that yoga is analogous to Indian raga, in which the notes of a musical scale are like energy centers along the spine. Peter Lavezzoli validates this analogy: “musical performance is ideally the practice of Nada Yoga – the Yoga of Sound. The raga is treated with reverence, with moksha (spiritual liberation) as the ultimate goal.” (The Dawn of Indian Music in the West, 40) Western yoga teachers and practitioners are not accused of “arrogance” for “second-hand” attempts, and neither should a Westerner performing a raga – “the Yoga of Sound.”
Russill Paul encourages no “blind embrace,” to use Marsalis’ unfriendly phrase, but rather a visionary embrace of the cosmos (cosmic guitar may be more accurate), revising the particular tonal associations with divine persons in a raga to suit various spiritual traditions, such as Sufism and Christianity. Paul: “Ultimately, the Yoga of Sound should reach beyond the confines of traditional Hinduism to embrace all the spiritual traditions of the world.” (The Yoga of Sound, xvi) This vision is consistent with Georg Feuerstein’s observation: “In the broadest sense, Yoga is simply spiritual practice, or spirituality. It is India’s version of what has long been known as mysticism in Christianity, kabbalah in Judaism, and Sufism in Islam.” (The Psychology of Yoga, 238) Feuerstein: “Jung believed that the West would eventually produce its own Yoga based in Christianity.  Some of his followers thought that Jung’s own psychotherapeutic method of active imagination was at least gesturing toward such a Western Yoga.” (Toward a Western Yoga; from The Psychology of Yoga, 235-36) Feuerstein: “Contemporary Yoga, which has primarily evolved in Western countries, is rich in innovations. Most of these modern inventions concern yogic technology, especially the postures.” (The Yoga Tradition, 426) The time may be ripe for a contemporary sonic yoga!
North Vancouver priest John Horgan lent me a book by Peter Kreeft, who writes: “Hinduism classifies Christianity as bhakti yoga, but Christians might classify Hinduism as a possible means to prayer. If we are to meditate when we pray and if Hindus have a long and rich tradition of methods of meditation, we should use whatever is good and useful there…, but with discernment and transformed by a Christian consciousness.” (Fundamentals of the Faith, 94) However, Malachi Martin (whom Horgan called a “terrible” writer) thinks that “Christian Yogis….are to mainstream Roman Catholicism what the Dancing Dervishes were to mainstream Islam.” (Three Popes and the Cardinal, x)
Paul: “Yoga has several important definitions that come from the agrarian culture in which it was born. The word ‘yoga’ is primarily derived from the Sanskrit root yuj, or yugam, meaning ‘to yoke,’ symbolizing the wholeness that occurs when the individual self – the ego or psyche – is joined, or yoked, with a vision of the cosmic….Yoga also embodies the agrarian image of oxen yoked to the plough, as the practice of yoga cultivates the ground of our being, the soil of our soul. The harvest is an abundance of spiritual experiences that bring joy and fulfillment to the deepest parts of our selves. This cultivation takes effort, another definition of yoga, which then translates into energy. The more energy we put into our spiritual practice, the more we receive. Finally, yoga means path.” (16) Krishna, from the Bhagavad-Gita, 6.47: “Of all yogins, he who loves Me with faith and whose inner self is absorbed in Me – him I deem to be most yoked.”
Ian Whicher: “According to [K.S.] Joshi, perhaps the most common example of ‘union’ in the Vedic period was ‘the union of bullocks or horses, and the fact that these animals were kept together by means of the yoke seems to have made an impact on the meaning of the word ‘Yoga’. The word, in due course, began to denote the “tool of the union” – the yoke’.” (The Integrity of the Yoga Darsana, 7) 17
Whicher: “Hindu scripture often compares the human senses with horses. It was thus that the term ‘Yoga’ evolved to indicate the method by which the senses and, by implication, the mind could be controlled, mastered, and transcended. S. Dasgupta states: ‘The force of the flying passions was felt to be as uncontrollable as that of a spirited steed, and thus the word ‘Yoga’ which was originally applied to the control of steeds began to be applied to the control of the senses.’ The fact that the yoke was a tool used for bringing horses under control might have helped the meaning of the word ‘Yoga’ to be shifted to the ‘tool,’ method of harnessing, or way of integration or union that can be utilized to bring the senses and the mind under control. It must be stressed, however, that the term ‘Yoga’ as applied to the human senses and mind comes to refer to a philosophically sophisticated and highly technical meaning and presupposes the formation of a well-arranged program or system of practices capable of steadying the mind, bringing it under ‘control,’ and thereby transcending the trammels of worldly existence including the human (egoic) barriers to spiritual freedom (moksa).” (The Integrity of the Yoga Darsana, 8)
Thomas Hopkins describes “the Katha Upanishad, where the human body is compared to a chariot driven by a charioteer (the intellect) using the mind as reins to control the senses. The self in this analogy (Katha Upanishad I.3.3-9) is said to ride in the body as a passenger rides in a chariot, his journey determined by the charioteer’s control. The analogy states several important principles. There is, first, a clear difference between the self and its vehicle, the body. Second, and of great importance for  later developments, there is a hierarchy of controls within the body; the intellect (buddhi), by means of understanding, controls the mind; and the mind, acting as a rein, controls the senses. Third, and of equal importance, the self may serve as a stimulus to control but is not itself directly involved. Yoga, the discipline of the senses, mind, and intellect, involves only the body; yoga is the discipline that the higher powers of the body enforce upon the lower ones. The goal, as Katha II.3.10-11 states, is to bring the whole body to a state of quiescence so that the self may be truly free, no longer distracted by the unrushing senses, mind, and intellect.
The statement in the Katha Upanishad is relatively undeveloped. Later Upanishads developed the view of yoga further, elaborating both the analysis of the body and the techniques of discipline by which the body can be controlled. The Svetasvatara Upanishad, for example, not only refers to yoga and its effects but describes how it should be practiced:
Holding the body steady with the three upper parts [head, neck, and chest] erect, causing the senses to enter into the heart by means of the mind, The wise man with the boat of Brahman should cross all the streams that bring fear.
Suppressing the breaths here in the body, his movements controlled, he should breathe through his nostrils with diminished breath. As he would a chariot yoked to bad horses, so should a wise man vigilantly restrain his mind. (Svestasvatara Upanishad II.8-9)” (The Hindu Religious Tradition, 64-65)
Frank Boccio: “the English word yoke derives from the Sanskrit.” (Mindfulness Yoga, 3) Georg Feuerstein notes, “the Sanskrit word yoga stems from the verbal root yuj (‘to yoke, unite, discipline’), which is closely related to the verbal root yaj (‘to worship by means of sacrifice’) forming the important term yajna, or ‘sacrifice.’ Thus Yoga can be succinctly defined as the discipline of self-sacrifice.” (Yoga Morality, 57) To Feuerstein, Queen Elizabeth II exemplifies “the yogin and yogini” for whom “the moral disciplines….are virtues that spring from one’s character or state of being”; “her father King George V to whom she was very close groomed her to succeed him. She happily embraced the burden and challenge of being a head of state, feeling early on that this was her sva-bhava, or inner nature – her destiny as a servant of people.” (90)
Sonny Rollins on sonic yoga: “when you’re into yoga and when you’re into improvisation, you want to reach that other [“subconscious”] level.…I’m not supposed to be playing, the music is supposed to be playing me. I’m just supposed to be standing there with the horn, moving my fingers. The music is supposed to be coming through me; that’s when it’s really happening.” Rollins: “’When I am playing, I would say it is a spiritual thing, in that the concentration is very similar to yoga. Because when I really concentrate while I am playing, I lose myself. Sometimes I feel like I am a whirling dervish, twirling around and getting into a certain state. It is truly an altered consciousness. That is what happens when I am really playing. You concentrate up to a point, and then you don’t have to concentrate. Then the other part comes in.’” (Open Sky, 13) Rollins seems to confuse holistic and dualistic conceptions of yoga. “Yoga means to join heaven and earth – body and soul….they’re not exercises, they’re positions through which you would get a[n] insight into the higher. It’s about your soul, it’s not about your body. Body and soul are attached….I consider myself learning. I don’t know everything about anything, but I know a little bit about yoga.” Rollins: “For me improvisation is supposed to be spirituality. In other words, when you improvise you’re supposed to reach a state beyond….you’re supposed to go to the next world….We’re supposed to leave this world and communicate with the next world. After all, that’s what music is. Music is something that is transcendental. It takes you out of this world.”
Commenting on “The postures of Hatha-Yoga,” Feuerstein notes, “their original purpose was to transmute the body as part of an extensive program of self-transcendence and self-transformation. Authentic Yoga – including genuine Hatha-Yoga – has always had its focus on the high ideals of mental health and spiritual realization. The contemporary shift away from these two time-honored and inter-related goals not only distorts the yogic heritage but also short-changes those who have adopted some of the yogic practices into their quest for physical health and fitness.” (Yoga Morality, xviii) According to Feuerstein, “some of these [yogic] postures[,] are intended for prolonged sitting in meditation. Most of them, however, are designed to regulate the life-force in the body in order to balance, strengthen, and heal it. But even the meditation  postures are said to have therapeutic value, and in some instances rather exaggerated claims are made. In both Eastern and Western Yoga circles, this aspect of Hatha-Yoga is often overemphasized. The following observation found in the Kularnava-Tantra (IX.30) applies:
Yoga is not [attained] through the lotus posture and not through glancing at the tip of the nose. It is the identity of the self (jiva) and the Self (atman) which the Yoga experts (visharada) call ‘Yoga.’” (Yoga as Spiritual Alcheny: Hatha Yoga; from Yoga: The Technology of Ecstasy, 289-91)
One who is truly yoked is distinguished from a mere yogist. From the Bhagavad-Gita: “’When he has controlled the mind and is established in the Self (atman) only, devoid of all desires, then he is said to be a ‘yoked one’ (yukta). (6.18)” Feuerstein: “It is incumbent on the yogin to prevent the discharge of his semen at all cost. Semen (bindu, retas) is considered a most precious product of the life force and must be conserved. The significance of coitus reservatus is that the semen is transmuted into a finer substance, called ojas, that nourishes the higher centers of the body.” (Yoga Tradition, 366) Feuerstein: “The term ‘yogist’ is of modern coinage and describes the Western enthusiast, who is primarily interested in the physical aspect of Yoga – especially the postures (asana) – rather than in Yoga as a spiritual discipline of Self-realization.” (8) Feuerstein: “This Sanskrit word is composed of the verbal root as‘ to sit.’” (Wholeness or Transcendence, 130) Feuerstein: “According to the Hatha-Yoga texts….only thirty-two [postures] are said to be particularly suited for human beings.
Originally asanas were purely meditational postures and only with the Tantric revolution did they receive a completely new purpose, when the asana became an instrument for the perfection of the body. This positive conception is foreign to mythic Yoga for which as in Orphism the body represents only the ‘tomb’ of the soul.” (Wholeness or Transcendence, 135) Frank Boccio: “Your aim should be to let the postures live in your body rather than to force your body into the form of the asana. As I heard David Swenson, a brilliant ashtanga yoga teacher, once say, ‘Don’t make an asana of yourself.’” (Mindfulness Yoga, 94)
Feuerstein: “As Dattatreya states in his Yoga-Shastra:….Those who [merely] talk about Yoga and wear the apparel [of a yogin] but lack all application and live for their bellies and their dicks (shishna) – they cheat people. (92-93)” (Tradition, 236-37) Feuerstein: “The term linga is often translated as ‘phallus,’ but really it stands for the cosmic creative principle, which is the distinguishing mark of the Divine in the form of Shiva. According to legend, when Brahma and Vishnu sought to determine the extent of Shiva’s linga, they could not find its beginning or end. As Shiva himself explains in the Linga-Purana (1.19.16), the linga is so called because at the end of time everything becomes dissolved (liyate) in it.” (298) This dissolution may relate to the more contorted yoga postures. Feuerstein mentions those who “worship Shiva in the form of a phallic symbol (linga), standing for the creative process in the Divine.” (Yoga: The Technology of Ecstasy, 208) Pratima Bowes mentions “many things which are non-existent in the Vedas,” including “the use of the phallic symbol to represent god Siva’s creative function.” (Hindu Religious Tradition, 26)
Feuerstein notes the representation of Shiva, the patron god of yoga and arts, as an ascetic: “God Shiva declares in the Shiva-Samhita (IV.89-92) [“a late work on Hatha-Yoga”]:
There is no doubt that the world is born and dies by means of the semen. Knowing this, the yogin should always practice preservation of the semen.
When the semen has been controlled with great effort, how can one not control the world? By the grace of such [control], I myself have become like this!
The semen creates pleasure and pain for all those deluded worldlings who are subject to ageing and death.
[But] this is a beneficial Yoga for the most excellent yogins. Through practice, even the [ordinary] person hooked on [worldly] experiences attains control [over the semen].
God Shiva, who uttered these words, is the arch adept of mythical spirituality. He is the ascetic par excellence. Here he presents himself as a master of seminal control, attributing his elevated state to this esoteric practice.” (Wholeness or Transcendence, 113-14) How does this yogic practice relate to sonic yoga and/or Indian raga?
The analogous relation of corporeal energy centers to scalar tones in raga theory invites a parallel association between various yoga poses and corresponding tonal structures, for examples, sun salute and plagal cadence, child’s pose and octave/unison, downward facing dog and diminished scale, three legged dog and diminished chord, upward-facing dog and augmented chord, lotus position and diatonic scale, plank and whole tone scale, warrior and power chord… Yehudi Menuhin’s comment may be relevant to inverted postures: “There is great benefit to be derived from the exercises in which the body is turned upside down: the heart is relieved of its usual workload because the blood which normally has to be pumped back up to the heart from the legs now travels towards the heart aided by gravity. Another aspect of this is that the veins and valves in the legs are no longer under strain. (It is this strain which causes varicose veins.) The brain receives refreshment from a full flow of blood.” (Compleat Violinist, 46)
Paul’s reference to “yogic Christian mystics” (17) gains significance when comparing the etymology of yoga to the invitation of Jesus: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Mt. 11:29-30) Ken Wilber interprets this passage: “The essence of Yoga is very simple: it means yoking or joining. When Christ said, ‘My yoke is easy,’ he meant ‘My yoga is easy’ – whether East or West, [ix] Yoga is the technique of joining or uniting the individual soul with absolute Spirit.” (Foreword; Yoga: The Technology of Ecstasy, ix-x)
Jesus’ reference to rest recalls Saint Augustine’s statement, “our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” Analogously, Levy and Levarie state: “In musical terms, we can identify consonance with a perfect balance of forces, with a condition of rest, with the potential of finality. Analogously, we identify dissonance with a struggle of energies, with unresolved tension, with the promise of continuation. In this sense, there is only one perfect consonance between two tones: the unison; and there is only one perfect consonance among chords: the triad. All other intervals and chords are more or less dissonant, varying according to the energy with which the participating forces ‘pull apart.'” (Tone, 198-199). In context of sonic yoga St. Paul’s counsel, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers” (2 Cor. 6:14), may be analogous to the tempering of discordant tonal infidelity in accordance with laws of musical decorum and principles of improvisational propriety. A friend who teaches at UBC told me of an evangelical Christian colleague who said that yoga is a sinful activity because one is not thinking about Jesus when one is practicing yoga; such a condemnation is not applicable to sonic yoga.
I see Western tonality and Afro-American music as addressing different aspects of our common humanity, while not saying the same thing. My abcba (Indo-Euro-Afro-Euro-Indo) structure is holistic, like whole grain, or organic, food. The Indo, Euro, and Afro as I understand them focusses on the keynote, diatonic scale, and chromatic scale, respectively. Paul confirms the focus on the keynote in raga: “the practice of Nada Yoga, as described in numerous texts, focuses mostly on the syllable Om….Etymologically, Nada is sound in the form of pitch, tone, and drone.” (The Yoga of Sound, xiv) Ornette Coleman’s harmolodic theory exemplifies for me a focus on chromaticism. Thus Coleman’s former bandmate Don Cherry states: “’If I play a C and have it in my mind as the tonic, that’s what it will become. If I want it to be a minor third or a major seventh that had a tendency to resolve upward, then the quality of the note will change….In the harmolodic concept, you’re reaching to the point to make every note sound like a tonic.'” (Litweiler, Ornette, 148)
Harmolodics offers a different way to conceptualize the function of the drone in a raga, not as a fixed keynote, but as a slippery signifier of tonal centrality. An example of Cherry’s statement – “If I want [a C] to be a minor third…then the quality of the note [or drone] will change” – is the final note of the bassist in Coleman’s What a Friend We Have in Jesus, which recontextualizes Coleman’s final melodic note, not as the keynote, but as the minor third relative to the bass note over which it is played. This harmolodic ending of a hymn is analogous to a resisting reading of a text in feminist literary theory, and to what Graham Good refers to as “the ‘hermeneutics of suspicion,’ by which works [or songs] are approached with a view to finding discreditable underlying motivations. The degree of suspicion is often related to the demographic group, historical period, or cultural background of the writer; these create expectations about what the textual [or tonal] surface might conceal, whether it be racism, sexism, or imperialism.” (Humanism Betrayed, 54) Coleman may have related the diatonic and cadential tonality characterizing the hymn to racism and imperialism. Harmolodics may be seen as the antithesis of a raga – an anti-raga. This aversion to the keynote is also evident in the Christian, diatonic melodies of John Coltrane, such as Dear Lord, After the Rain, and Welcome.
Coleman’s bassist Tony Falanga: “The reason he has two bass players is because a bass note changes the character and the function of whatever note is being played against it. Ornette could play a B and if I play a G, it sounds like he’s playing the third; or I could play a C, and it sounds like he’s playing the seventh. So he goes, ‘Now I have two of you guys changing the meaning of my notes as I play them.’ It’s the opposite of most people, who rely on the bass to give them the root of the chord.
Then he finds notes that influence us to play a different note. So he’ll play a note, and we’re in another tonality, which could be interpreted in a lot of different ways. It’s tough, but when it works it really works, and it’s totally unique. He did it a long time ago with the double quartet. And then he did it electric with Prime Time. Now he’s just taking the bass notes, which are the ones that change everything.” (Ornette Coleman: In His Own Language) Falanga implicitly endorses flat five substitutions: “I love the flatted fifth. The flatted fifth gets me out of a lot of trouble.”
Another form of anti-raga is manifest in Farah Jasmine Griffin and Salim Washington’s description of a complex pedal point. “In Western music, the final cadence of each song – and indeed of each section of a song – reinforces the hierarchical thinking that is inherent in functional harmony, one of the hallmarks of diatonic music. Think of the famous ending of the first movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, for instance. Certain tones, used in specific harmonic progressions, lead toward a consonant resolution in an expected and seemingly inevitable way. The introduction of a pedal point, a repeated tone over a long duration, suspends the sense of progression that is necessary for functional harmony. Constructing the pedal point as the oscillation between two notes, rather than the customary single tone, interrupts the harmonic expectations even further.” (Clawing at the Limits of Cool, 130) McCoy Tyner’s Ebony Queen and Breau‘s ethereal cover version (oreo queen?) exemplify a complex pedal point.
Griffin and Washington: “By the late 1960s, the old forms of civil disobedience were no longer satisfactory for a younger generation – a generation that came to possess a new sense of urgency and militancy. Like the younger activists, Coltrane…[‘]s group would be instrumental in upsetting the established harmonic and rhythmic paradigms of Western music. His music would become a touchstone, inspiring generations of musicians to leave behind the status quo of Europe’s diatonic system.” (Clawing, 189) Griffin and Washington: “the blues remained his forte and spiritual source of his innovations.” (199) Griffin and Washington: “John Tynan of Down Beat wrote ….increasingly caustic reviews of Coltrane, until in an uncontrolled flourish he cites ‘evidence’ that the brains of human beings were biologically determined to accept the Western diatonic scale! Tynan and other critics looked on Coltrane’s line of development as a kind of apostasy.” (213-14) Daniel Levitin: “our brains and the musical scales we use seem to have coevolved. It is no accident that we have the funny, asymmetric  arrangement of notes in the major scale: It is easier to learn melodies with this arrangement, which is a result of the physics of sound production (via the overtone series we visited earlier); the set of tones we use in our major scale are very close in pitch to the tones that constitute the overtone series.” (This is Your Brain on Music, 224)
Griffin and Washington comment on the version of So What from Coltrane’s Live in Stockholm album recorded in 1960: “The content of his phrases is full of information that chafes at the restrictions of diatonic thinking….In a year’s time, Coltrane will reinterpret ‘So What’ as ‘Impressions.’ In ‘Impressions’ he will fully realize the screams and yelps, the assault upon the diatonic system, implied in the Stockholm version of ‘So What.’” (Clawing, 219) Griffin and Washington: “His music would become the sound track for a growing political and spiritual consciousness that came to characterize some of the more radical sections of both the black power and the anti-war struggles of the late sixties and early seventies.” (221)
Stanley Crouch describes the aesthetic of European jazz audiences in the early 1970s: “Music with melody, harmony, and instrumental control was considered the art of repression and the symbol of the enslavement of black people, while the opportunists of the ‘avant-garde’ were celebrated as the voices of freedom.” (Notes of a Hanging Judge, 248) Berendt describes “the missionary and sectarian character of the freedom of the free jazz of the sixties – a conception of freedom that condemned all nonfree playing as not only musically but also politically, socially, and morally regressive.” (Jazz Book, 226)
The avant-garde opportunists spurn the yoke of sonic yoga, manifest in Eastern and Western classical music. Thus John Callahan states: “the Negro is ‘mose’ – old Moses who ever seeks the promised land through the fluid, abiding covenant of American democracy. Mose is also an ironic, inside name for the sly and cunning Negro trickster whose subservience is a mask behind which he slips the racial yoke and turns the joke on the white folks.” (Introduction, Trading Twelves, xii) According to Ralph Ellison jazz “originally was mose signifying at other moses. Naturally, like any real work of art jazz made a helluvalota white folks want to be mose, simply because jazz is art and art is the essence of the human. Besides only dog-ass folks run away from that essence, so the hell with ‘em.” (65) Ellison: “Mose can’t rise vertically so he’s restless…there is a metaphysical restless[ness] built into the American and mose is just another form of it, expressed basically, with a near tragic debunking of the self which is our own particular American style….The world’s getting bluesier all the time.” (166) However, Joel Lester complains that “Banjo-picking ‘Mose’ is considered…representative of blacks.” (Look Out, Whitey!, 52)
Viewed impersonally, my genre represents the journey of a fundamental tone as it generates its descendants/derivatives, who/which discover their autonomy before reverting back to their common source. This inclusive genre could be regarded as a racial interpretation, or application, of the sections of symphonic or sonata form, as well as a demystification of this form. My genre accords with Martin Stokes’ observation: “When musicians are overwhelmed by a consciousness of other musics, they struggle to make sense of them, incorporate them, relegate them to lower rungs on ladders of complexity, difficulty, interest and so on, in terms dictated by their own musics and views of the world. In spite of the language of global participation, these events are power struggles. The idea of the pleasure of unexpected juxtapositions and ‘proximities’ of genres and styles (Chambers 1985), the semiotic free-for-all celebrated by some post-modernist theory, does little justice to the complexities of increasingly common ‘multi-cultural’ musical events.” (Introduction; Ethnicity, Identity, and Music, 16)
This former tendency is also evident in Santana’s conception of the universal tone, defined by the absence of a clash of wills. Santana: “Playing music is not ‘To be or not to be.’ That’s for Shakespeare. If you have to think, ‘To be or not to be,’ you have no business playing music. Music just ‘is’ – you go to that note and that note is there, as juicy as you want it to be, as soulful as you want it to be, as significant as you want it to be.” Santana: “God…is beyond all praise. He doesn’t need a billboard – he doesn’t need us to worship and adore him. We need to honor and worship and work on ourselves.” (Tone, 389) Compare with Heiner Ruland’s reference to John the revelator’s apocalyptic vision of “twenty-four kingly, crowned, string-playing ‘presbyters'” whose “all-encompassing circle resounds with a song of praise.” (Expanding, 176) In 2011 Santana wrote a poem called “I Am the Universal Tone.” (The Universal Tone, 509)
James W. Perkinson believes that rap’s “root remains the anger and attitude of a harsh confrontation….If a collective effect of shamanistic healing was hip-hop’s early possibility, its reality is real loss in the war of competing witchcrafts. White supremacy continues to infiltrate much of the private talk in this [American] country.” (Rap as Wrap and Rapture, from Noise and Spirit, 146, 148) Rap artist Michael Franti: “’It’s important to realize that everybody’s at a different level in their evolution and that we need to encourage everybody to keep going with it rather than to shut the door.’” (from Inside the Music, 106)
Perkinson implies a parallel between celestial and terrestrial “gated communities:” “Middle-class lifestyle is, in part, amendable, protected from violence and chaos, and free of victims. Sub-urban residence is assumed to be tranquil, tame, tidy, and untainted by the ‘problems’ observed elsewhere. The ‘gated communities’ that have come increasingly into being in recent decades by way of well-monitored points of entry and well-policed ‘exteriors’ have successfully ‘exorcised’ the sight and sounds and smells of death from their daily routines.” (137) Perkinson contrasts “white, middle-class, heterosexual law-abidingness that (nonetheless) allows a certain range of commodified deviance” with “the surveilled ‘otherness,’ kept carefully and forcefully at bay, [which] is presumed to be a ‘colored,’ lower-class, hypersexual loudness likely at any moment to erupt in a paroxysm of violence.” (White Theology, 168)
Lynn Dorland Trost: “Michael Harrington believes white people think ‘the racial ghetto reflects the “natural” character of the Negro: lazy, shiftless, irresponsible, and so on.’ It appears that often whites think blacks ‘prefer to live that way.’ Yet, as Tom Wicker states in his introduction to the Report of the U.S. Commission on Civil Disorders:
‘What white Americans have never fully understood – but what the Negro can never forget – is that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it.’
If the blacks appear uncivilized to the whites, the greater part of the responsibility for such condition seems to lie with the whites.” (Cultural Bases of Racism and Group Oppression, 68)
However, James L. Farmer, founder and national director of the Committee of Racial Equality states: “’Nor do I think that most Negroes will choose to live in what are now lily-white suburbs. If the Negro wants to live in Lovely Gardens or Lovely Lane, then he should do so; but most are going to choose to live in what are now the ghettos.’” (Who Speaks for the Negro, 192) Ruth Turner, a full-time worker for CORE, agrees: “My supposition is that if all the barriers were lifted, Negroes, after having the experience of equal opportunity, would still choose to live together.” (386) Farmer: “’The middle-class Negro looks alien. A favorite saying now among Negroes is “So-and-so used to be black.”’” (195)
Perkinson alludes to such ‘former blacks’ when noting that “even dark-skinned people can ‘ascend the color gradient’ into the social privileges organized as ‘whiteness’ to the degree they are willing and able to distance themselves from the more pejorative ascriptions assigned to ‘blackness’ that are associated with the inner city. By appropriating, for instance, signs of ‘safe middle class-ness’ in terms of the kind of car driven, clothes worn, hair style chosen, English vernacular spoken, clubs frequented, and so on, ‘buppies’ can gain uneasy admittance into gated suburbs (though such an address does nothing to insure against being ‘profiled’ while driving, beaten while questioned, or even killed while being ‘checked out’). The racial schema itself, however, remains rooted at its bottom in a dense web of underclass associations (as ‘criminal,’ ‘bestial,’ ‘promiscuous,’ ‘violent,’ etc.) that constitute the ‘real’ meaning of black skin in much of white imagination.” (White Theology, 172) These associations justify Clarence Page’s comment: “Particularly wearying for many middle-class blacks is a pervasive sense of loss, loneliness, alienation, and a broken bargain. Like a beleaguered partner in a bad marriage, they lament constantly having to do all the work in the relationship.” (Showing My Color, 31)
In the spirit of the early church, which “turned the world upside down” with its teaching (Acts 17:6), a Christian application turns the Hindu conception of raga upside down, as the keynote is associated, not with the smelly root chakra, but with the crown or head. Such an inversion accords with Barbara Conable’s book, What Every Musician Needs to Know about the Body, in which she describes the first among “Laws of the Spine: 1) The head must lead spinal movement (as it does in all creatures). …The spine is an ensemble. It plays all together with the head conducting.”
In turning the raga right side up the global guitarist accomplishes a cultural revolution, in the literal sense of a 180 degree turnabout, or complete turnaround. This musical revolution may be analogous to that sought by poet William Blake’s Bard, “Calling the lapsèd soul, / And weeping in the evening dew; / That might control / The starry pole, / And fallen, fallen light renew! / ‘O Earth, O Earth, return! / Arise from out the dewy grass! / Night is worn, / And the morn / Rises from the slumbrous mass. / Turn away no more; / Why wilt thou turn away? / The starry floor, / The watery shore, / Is given thee till the break of day.'” However, the bard’s desire to control contrasts with the abandonment of such desire by participants in the ultimate orgasm, described above.
Blake’s “starry pole” may relate to the axis described by Feuerstein: “According to Yoga symbolism, the spine corresponds to the axis of the universe, which is pictured as a gigantic golden mountain called Mount Meru. At the top of this mountain (that is, in your head) resides heaven where all the deities are seated.” (Yoga for Dummies, 140) Compare with Blake: “All Deities reside in the Human breast.” (Marriage of Heaven and Hell) Feuerstein: “The yogic posture is a sacramental act….Symbolically speaking, the yogic posture is the assimilation of the spinal column to the world axis, Mount Meru. The body is thus rendered into a sacred place.” (Wholeness or Transcendence, 131)
One wonders if the tonal mother and father in the Hindu conception of raga disallow blue notes membership into the raga family. William R. Jones finds an example of divine racism in “Thomas Gossett’s interpretation of sections of the Rig Veda, the Hindu scriptures of ancient India….In Gossett’s interpretation, Indra, the God of the Aryans, is described as ‘blowing away with supernatural might from earth and from the heavens the black skin which Indra hates.’ The account further reports how Indra ‘slew the flat-nosed barbarians,’ the dark people called Anasahs. Finally, after Indra conquers the land of the Anasahs for His worshipers, He commands that the Anasahs are to be ‘flayed of [their] black skin.’” (Is God a White Racist, 3) Francisco Bethencourt notes: “The Rig-Veda mentioned the migrations of pastoral people called Arya to India and clash of these light-skinned noble invaders with local dark-skinned populations labeled barbarians. This is the source of the myth of Aryanism, since the Rig-Veda had probably been composed around 2000 BC. The text was considered to supply the first evidence of conflict between light- and dark-skinned populations.” (Racisms, 288)
Ian Whicher: “Studies by J.W. Hauer and Maryla Falk have provided convincing evidence that Yoga was not initially created by the adepts of the Upanisads (i.e., in the sixth or seventh century BCE) – as had been assumed earlier by Indologists – but had already arisen in the form of rudimentary ideas and practices going back to the time of the Rg Veda (ca. 1200 BCE) [note 12] or, as some would argue, as far back as the Indus Valley Civilization between about 2500 and 1800 BCE. [note 13]” (The Integrity of the Yoga Darsana, 7)
Note 12 concerns the former view: “See Hauer’s (1958), Der Yoga, and M. Falk’s (1941), The Unknown Early Yoga and the Birth of Indian Philosophy; see also K. Werner (1977), Yoga and Indian Philosophy.” (Integrity, 309)
Concerning the latter view, in Note 13 Whicher acknowledges: “Contemporary scholarship tends to agree on this point. [Georg] Feuerstein (1989: 97) writes: ‘traces of an early form of Yoga can even be detected in the Indus civilization that flourished in the second and third millennia BCE. According to this view, Yoga thus antedates the invasion of the Sanskrit-speaking tribes from the steppes of southern Russia, who called themselves Aryans (‘noble folk’) who had long been thought to have given birth to the tradition of Yoga.’ [Yoga: The Technology of Ecstasy, 97] There are major problems in trying to discern the religious life of the people of the Indus Valley Civilization. However, there are some examples available of their writing, in a pictographic script, mainly upon small seals that may have been used to seal bags of grain. Scholars have looked for materials that prefigure religious phenomena in the later development of Indian culture. One of the seals discovered portrays a male, ithyphallic horned person, perhaps a human being, perhaps a deity, sitting in what appears to be a yogic posture – a variant of the lotus position – with animals around him. This figure has been associated with the important god of Hinduism, Siva, who is considered to be a great yogin.” (Integrity, 309)
This Indus phallic figure accords with Feuerstein’s association of “the religion of the Indus valley people” with “objects reminiscent of the later Tantric phallus (linga)….In fact, in the Rig-Veda of the invading Sanskrit-speakers, the native people are deprecatingly called ‘phallus-worshippers.’” (100) In 2004 Frank Boccio claimed, “Yoga’s roots can be seen in the Vedas, the most ancient of India’s texts that are accepted as revealed scripture by devout Hindus. Dating from as early as the fourth millennium B.C., the Vedas are considered eternal, uncreated and incontestable – though subject to many various interpretations. From these earliest beginnings, yoga has always had as its aim the practice of disciplined introspection or meditative focusing directed at the transcendence of the egoic self.” (Mindfulness Yoga, 8) In his Foreword Feuerstein describes Boccio’s book as “truly worthwhile,” and concludes that “Mindfulness Yoga should be read by every aspiring yoga practitioner.” (ix, xiii) However, in his 1989 book Feuerstein states, “the presumption common among earlier scholars that Yoga is entirely a creation of the Indo-European invaders has been demonstrated to be incorrect in light of modern archaeological finds. Yoga is a tree with many roots, and its taproot is undoubtedly to be found in the Indus civilization.” (Technology, 101) Later, though, Feuerstein states: “Clearly, the religious environment of the Vedic tribes was one of the taproots of later Yoga.” (108) Feuerstein: “The early Vedic people were fair-skinned, blue-eyed, and light-haired, which distinguished them from the dark-complexioned natives.” (101)
John Coltrane mentions the Vedas in his song Om, where he quotes from the ninth Book of the Bhaghavad Gita, matching the Prabhavananda / Isherwood translation word for word (p104): “Rites that the Vedas ordain, and the rituals taught by the scriptures, / All these am I, and the offering made to the ghosts of the fathers, / Herbs of healing and food, the mantram, the clarified butter: / I the oblation and I the flame into which it is offered. / I am the sire of the world, and this world’s mother and grandsire / I am He who awards to each the fruit of his action: / I make all things clean / I am OM… “ The reference to “this world’s mother and grandsire” recalls the maternal and paternal drone notes of the raga. Gary Giddins: “Om (long rumored to have been recorded on LSD) may not be the worst record Coltrane ever made, but it’s a contender.” (Visions, 488) Iain Chambers: “LSD distorts and rearranges the original referent (‘reality’), often to the degree of temporarily blotting it out and imposing an alternative order of sensations.” (Urban Rhythms, note 27, 238) Ben Ratliff: “LSD commonly encourages the user to see the ideal of life as cooperative and nonhierarchical.” (Coltrane, 155) Ratliff: “Coltrane’s loud and dense late-period music cannot be separated from the path toward racial tolerance and absolute worldwide human equality.” (171)
Mark W. Muesse: “One Vedic creation myth maintained that the universe was created out of a word – AUM, the Pravnava, or most potent of mantras.” (Great World Religions: Hinduism, 16) Thomas Hopkins comments on the Svetasvatara: “meditation on the sound syllable om, the seed mantra of the Lord, brings forth the vision of the Lord hidden in the self:
By practicing the friction of meditation, making one’s own body the lower friction-stick and the syllable om the upper friction-stick, one may see God who is, as it were, hidden [within the body]. (Svetasvatara I.14)” (Hindu Religious Tradition, 71)
Hopkins describes “the Chandogya Upanishad, where one sound, the syllable om or aum, is said to stand for all sounds and thus for the entire universe….om is the essence of the syllables:
As all leaves are held together by a stalk, so all speech is held together by om. Verily, the syllable om is all this [created universe], yea, it is all this.(Chandogya II.23-3)” (Hindu Religious Tradition, 72)
However, Feuerstein states: “The mantric OM is only a coarse approximation of a sound that the yogin hears in meditation. And the sound heard in meditation is only a rough approximation of the inaudible Reality for which it stands.” (Guide, 107) Feuerstein: “Employing an old Upanishadic metaphor, it [“The Dhyana-Bindu (‘Meditation Point’)-Upanishad”] likens the syllable om to a bow, with oneself as the arrow and the Absolute as the target. The individual who truly realizes the ultimate import of this metaphor is liberated even while being embodied.” (Yoga Tradition, 317)
In his essay, Black Arts: Notebook, John O’Neal likens humanity to a river. “I see three major lines of cultural development among contemporary humankind: European, Asian, and African. Each of these categories of peoples shows its own internal dynamic and has participated in various ways in relationships to Peoples in other cultural groups. Think of a river going somewhere for the first time. The river’s well established, but where it’s going isn’t – just that it’s going. The river is humankind. Human consciousness is defined by ever-changing, ever expanding limits of the river. The artists are the ones who move at the edge of that consciousness, moving out in front of the mainstream, showing the way for the river to go….Think of three waters. The waters come from separate places but play close together, then farther on they mingle with the others; then, pulling apart again, each goes off to  meet the other, then back and forth till they finally run together toward a place where they cannot go apart, yet cannot mix to make one stream without one or both backing up to come another way. All waters find ultimate issue in a common source. The ultimate reunion in that source is the inevitable end of all striving.” (from The Black Aesthetic, 49)
O’Neal’s seeming integrationist vision also characterizes the black writer described by Addison Gayle, Jr. as one who maintains “that there are no separate cultural streams dividing the two races [black and white]. There is, he supposes, only one giant cultural ocean, in which white and black experiences have been churned into one. The result of such assimilation is the transformation of black men into carbon copies of white men.” (The Function of Black Literature at the Present Time, 386; from Black Aesthetics) The inhumane image of carbon copies reflects Gayle’s disdain for the theme of cultural assimilation, which he discovers in The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, by James Weldon John; Go Tell It on the Mountain, by James Baldwin; and Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison. Similarly, I find varied responses to cultural assimilation in the music and words of black classical musicians.
In his essay ‘Orphee Noir,’ the introduction to Senghor’s Anthologie de la nouvelle poesie negre et malgache, Sartre asks: “‘What will happen when the Negro, throwing off his negritude for the sake of the Revolution, no longer wants to be considered as anything but a member of the proletariat?…What if, in order to fight white capitalism, he has to assimilate white techniques? Will the source of the poetry dry up? Or will the great black river colour, in spite of everything, the whole sea into which it flows?'” (from Muntu, 134) At the close of this essay the image of “the great black river” modulates to “‘the great Negro cry,'” which Jahn identifies with Nommo, the African counterpart to the Western Logos.
Richard H. King: “The piece most responsible for bringing negritude to the attention of white Western intellectuals was Sartre’s long essay ‘Black Orpheus’ of 1948. In his essay, Sartre sought to explain the black ‘other’ to white Europeans.” (Race, Culture, and the Intellectuals, 250) In “Black Orpheus” Sartre “identifies negritude as a form of ‘anti-racist racism,’ a form of racial consciousness that ultimately seeks to go beyond and abolish itself.” (250-251)
King comments on Sartre’s essay: “since negritude poets use the language of their colonial oppressors, in this case French, they must deploy that language itself to undermine the oppressors’ physical, linguistic, and psychocultural domination. But central to Sartre’s analysis are, first, the image of the black Christ as much as of Orpheus, a sacrificial figure whose passion permeates his existence; and, second, the concept of negritude, as a ‘moment of negativity’ that will eventually be surpassed in the dialectical movement of history.
Famously, Sartre refers twice in the essay to negritude as the ‘anti-racist racism’ of the new Negro. With that, he brings together the trope of self-abnegating passion with the concept of dialectical transition and conceptual self-undermining:
‘[the Negro himself, we have said, creates a kind of antiracist racism. He wishes in no way to dominate the world: he desires the abolition of all kinds of ethnic privileges; he asserts his solidarity with the oppressed of every color….] In fact, Negritude appears like the up-beat [unaccented beat] of a dialectical progression: the theoretical and practical affirmation of white supremacy is the thesis; the position of Negritude as an antithetical value is the moment of negativity. But this negative moment is not sufficient in itself, and these black men who use it know this perfectly well; they know that it aims at preparing the synthesis or realization of the human being in a raceless society. Thus Negritude is for destroying itself, it is a ‘crossing to’ and not ‘an arrival at,’ a means and not an end [At the moment the black Orpheus most directly embraces this Erudice [sic], he feels her vanish from between his arms.]….With what pride as a man he will strip his pride as a Negro for other men! (pp. 36-37)’
For Sartre, then, black people have replaced the proletariat as carriers of historical development, but that historical role will disappear, whatever the subjective objection of the black poet or black people in general to this process of self-surpassing might be. The universal man becomes particular and is incarnated, first, in the proletariat and now as a black; but the  particularistic incarnation must eventually be surpassed in order that the universal man can reemerge.” (Negritude, Colonialism, and Beyond; Race, Culture, and the Intellectuals, 252-53)
The language contrasting Sartre’s “particularistic incarnation” and “universal man” recalls that used by Nietzsche to describe his conceptions of Dionysus and Apollo, with Dionysian “dissonance” parallelling “the up-beat” of Negritude. Nietzsche: “If we could conceive of an incarnation of dissonance – and what else is man? – then, that it might live, this dissonance would need a glorious illusion to cover its features with a veil of beauty. This is the true artistic function of Apollo…At the same time, just as much of this basis of all existence – the Dionysian substratum of the world – is allowed to enter into the consciousness of human beings, as can be surmounted again by the Apollonian transfiguring power, so that these two art-impulses are compelled to develop their powers in strictly mutual proportion, according to the law of eternal justice” (Birth of Tragedy, 1087). Compare with Schenkerian ethics: “A point of musical ethics: dissonance is sterile because it does not lend itself to composing out. It exists purely to serve consonance, which alone is fertile. Mankind ought to avail itself of this golden truth of music for the conduct of its life!” (Masterwork II, 125).
Sartre: “with the apostles of negritude, indissolubly fused are the theme of the return  to the native land [Africa] and that of the redescent into the bursting Hell of the black soul….this untiring descent of the Negro into himself causes me to think of Orpheus going to reclaim Eurycide [sic] from Pluto.” (Black Orpheus, 20-21) “I am presently tempted to cite the great adversary of Christianity Nietzsche and his ‘dionysism.’ As the dianysian poet, the Negro seeks to penetrate beneath the brilliant phantasies of the day and encounters, a thousand feet under the apolinian surface, the inexpiable suffering which is the universal essence  of man. If one wished to systematize, one would say that the black merges into all of Nature insomuch as he is sexual sympathy with Life, and that he vindicates himself as Man insomuch a he is the Passion of suffering in revolt. One will feel the fundamental unity of this double movement if one reflects upon the relation more and more direct that psychiatrists establish between anguish and sexual desire.” (49-50)
“But if, in a certain sense, one can assimilate the fecundity of Natutre [sic] to a proliferation of misery, in another sense, and this also is dionysian, this fecundity, surpasses by its exuberance the misery, drowns it in its creative abundance which is poetry, love and dance. Perhaps it is necessary in order to understand this indissoluble unity of suffering, of eros, and of joy, to have seen the Negroes of Harlem dance frenetically to the rhythm of the blues, which are the most desolate songs of the human race. It is  the rhythm, in effect, which cements these multiple aspects of the black soul; it is that which communicates its nietzschean [sic] lightness to these heavy dionysian intuitions; it is the rhythm in the tomtom, in jazz…which expresses the temporal aspects of the Negro existence.” (50-51)
Sartre’s representation of Negritude as “a ‘crossing to’ and not ‘an arrival at,” ’is consistent with guitarist Pat Metheny’s statement, “in some ways jazz isn’t a destination for me. For me, jazz is a vehicle that takes you to the true destination – a musical one that describes all kinds of stuff about the human condition and the way music works.” (The Jazz Ear, 15) Amiri Baraka: “’Blues and jazz have been the only consistent exhibitors of ‘Negritude’ in formal American culture simply because the bearers of its tradition maintained their essential identities as Negroes; in no other art (and I will persist in calling Negro music, Art) has this been possible. Phyllis Wheatley and her pleasant imitations of eighteenth-century English poetry are far and, finally, ludicrous departures from the huge black voices that splintered southern nights with their their hollers, chants, arwhoolies, and ballits.’” (Home, 106; from How You Sound, in Uptown Conversation, 319) Wheatley: “Some view our sable race with scornful eye, ‘Their colour is a diabolic die.’ Remember, Christians, Negros, black as Cain, May be refin’d, and join th’ angelic train.” (On Being Brought from Africa to America)
Sartre: “From the man of color and from him alone can it be asked to renounce pride in his color. It is he who marches on a ridge between the past particularism which he has just climbed and the future universalism which will be the twilight of his Negritude; it is he who lives particularism to the end to find thereby the dawn of the universal.” (62) “Negritude, born of Evil and pregnant of a future good, and living as a woman who is born to die and who senses her own death even in the richest moment of her life, it is an uneasy repose, an exlopsive [sic] stability, a pride which renounces itself, an absolute which knows itself to be transitory.” (63) Francis Davis notes that Sun Ra “scoffs at the concept of black pride….’black pride. Actually, I prefer the word “dark.” Black folks used to be called darkies. “A darky’s born, he ain’t no good no how, without a song.” I take that as my song. God didn’t give the black man anything but his music.’” (Jazz and Its Discontents, 207)
Eric Charry notes the oppositional associations of Negritude. “In response to a dominant European philosophical tradition that privileges the mind over the body, African writers and others of African descent have valorized the visceral and emotional aspects of their cultures. But valorizing these aspects to the point of considering them as defining marks of African-ness – and yielding rational thought as a mark of European-ness – in effect endorses the mind/body dichotomy and reinforces racial stereotypes that deny the full range of human potentiality to all peoples. As Nigerian writer Wole Soyinka, a critic of negritude, has noted,
To Descartes’ ‘I think, therefore, I am,’ they [negritude writers] responded on behalf of the black man: ‘I feel, therefore I am.’ Rationalism is essentially European, they claimed; the black man is emotive and intuitive. He is not a man of technology, but a man of the dance, of rhythm and song.
This simplified view of the black man’s world did not pass without its challengers however, and even the early Negritudinists soon found themselves compelled to begin to modify their position. (Soyinka 1988: 180)” (Introduction, The Beat of My Drum, 18)
If jazz and blues express the antithetical state of Negritude, how does black classical music embody, or aspire to, a synthesis representative of the universal man? Joni Mitchell on hearing music composed for her by Charles Mingus: “It was as if I had been standing by a river – one toe in the water – feeling it out – and Charlie came by and pushed me in – ‘sink or Swim’ – him laughing at me dog paddling around in the currents of black classical music.” Giddins and DeVeaux: “Mingus was extremely sensitive to Negro stereotypes, which he exploited to poke fun at racist attitudes. He bristled at being called Charlie, which he thought disrespectful, and resented critical semantics that used the word ‘jazz’ as a means of ghettoizing his art. About ‘Meditations on Integra-tion’ (1964), he wrote: ‘You’ll say that it sounds almost classical. It is classical. You see, black faces aren’t expected to play classical. But they do. We, too, went to school. We, too, studied music.’” (Jazz, 389-90)
Giddins and DeVeaux: “In later years, Mingus recalled being advised to switch from cello to bass because as a black man he could not succeed in classical music and would find work only if he learned to ‘slap that bass, Charlie!’
Mingus soon began…composing works that reflected his classical training, most notably ‘Half-Mast Inhibition’ (a characteristically telling Mingus title), completed in his teens and reflecting his admiration for Richard Strauss.” (390) Todd Jenkins refers to this title as “a pun on his teenaged sexual neuroses.” (I Know What I Know, 7)
Janheinz Jahn: “The blue notes characteristic of the blues, which go back to the middle pitch of the West African tonal languages, and have a modality between sharp and flat, sound sad to European ears.” (Muntu, 223) Joachim-Ernst Berendt mentions “blue notes originating in African music.” (Jazz Book, 208-09) Robert Plant on Q TV (5:25): “As a kid I heard the blue note, and I’d never heard anything like it before. Traditional Western European music doesn’t contain – there was parts of the scales of the music which were coming from West Africa, which I now know about because I spent time there quite a lot. I had no forewarning at all because the squeaky clean, white, clean and neat side of British popular music when I was growing up in the early fifties was abominable. This [other] music was haunting.” Iain Chambers describes “a telling disorientation for our ears as the blues singer stretches and slides over those intervals (‘blue notes’) we are accustomed to expect. Such a sensation of ‘foreignness’ is the most recognizable aural trait of the blues and Afro-American music in pop – the slides, slurs, bent, ‘dirty’ and uncertain notes.” (Urban Rhythms, 10) Chambers: “Afro-American music consistently resorts to tactile adjectives to describe its effects: ‘hot’, ‘funky’, ‘feeling’. The music does not obey the narrow sequential logic, so akin to writing, of a beginning, middle and end.” (12) The middleness of Dionysian Negritude resists the European cadence from the blues chord to its resolution in the ‘white’ tonic chord. This resistance is accomplished by blue notes: the minor third diminishes the major third, the flatted fifth diminishes the perfect fifth, and the minor seventh diminishes the major seventh.
Gary Giddins notices “that [Coltrane’s] ‘Chasin’ the Trane‘ [Live at the Village Vanguard] doesn’t really end; it stops. Nor does it really begin; it just starts. The performance is all middle, an immense tide, a transition.” (Visions, 480) Olly Wilson: “In the 1960s, when John Coltrane becomes ‘Trane,’ he becomes an icon. As a consolidator he pulls many things together (different musical styles, cultures, and genres, his intensity, his political consciousness, his spirituality), and all of this becomes identified with the musical period and becomes the kind of music that many people listened to, beginning with ‘My Favorite Things.’ And his name, ‘Trane,’ is suggestive of the period because it’s a powerful symbol that is also associated with African American spirituals, and conveys the image of a train…the moving, the running away, the getting away, the going to a better place, is all part of that metaphor.” (Conversation with Olly Wilson; from John Coltrane and Black America’s Quest for Freedom, 189)
Miles Davis: “’If you complete something, you play it, and it’s finished. Once you resolve it, there’s nothing more to do. But when it’s open, you can suspend it…’ ‘Suspension’ is a word Miles uses frequently when talking bout his music. It is a music very much of today, in sound and feeling.” (Dan Morgenstern, Living With Jazz, 223) Giddins and DeVeaux: “If the great symphonic works of classical music may be viewed as cathedrals, with buttressed foundations building heavenward to a spire, great jazz works are more often like modern sky-scrapers that rise as many floors as the builder determines yet are basically the same at top and bottom.” (Jazz, 26) Wynton Marsalis uses the same simile: “When I say that music is like a skyscraper, what I mean is that jazz is organized in choruses, so each chorus will represent something like a floor of a skyscraper. It has the same structure, but something very different goes on in each floor.” (Duke Ellington; from The Jazz Cadence of American Culture, 145)
Compare with Coleman’s definition of harmolodics as “music intended to bring out the fundamental of the listener without modulation.” (Prime Time for Harmolodics. Down Beat, July 1983, pp. 54-55. Quoted in Gioia (1990), p.43.) And with Coleman’s tripartite structure: “The Theme you play at the start of a number is the territory, and what comes after, which may have very little to do with it, is the Adventure!” Theme from a Symphony, from Dancing in Your Head, exemplifies Coleman’s Theme and Adventure. This melodic theme, called The Good Life on the album Skies of America, outlines a harmonic cadence. Perhaps the relation of the pensive, robed wise man with a full beard and the mischievous smiling jester depicted on the former album cover is analogous to the relation of Coleman’s Theme and Adventure, respectively.
Levarie and Levy state: “Aristotle’s famous formulation concerning the temporal conditions of tragedy fits equally well those of music. In either case, the work of art must be ‘complete in itself, as a whole of some magnitude…Now a whole is that which has beginning, middle, and end'” (Morphology, 90). Frye mentions “the conventions of tonality which require that a piece should normally open and close in the same key” (Anatomy, 133). The middle, then, represents a departure from that key. Aristotle suggests an analogous relation between dramatic form and the order of nature when describing the length of a tragic plot as being confined “to a single revolution of the sun” (8). E. Michael Jones notes that “The diatonic scale with its irregularly spaced half-intervals has a beginning, a middle, and an end….tension and resolution lies at the heart of Western music.” (Dionysus Rising, 127-128) Trumpeter John McNeil: “‘The pentatonic scale is harmonically ambiguous. It doesn’t have the harmonic direction that we use in Western music.'” (Ratliff, 150)
According to Franklin Rosemont, the role of blues and jazz “in shaping the modern sensibility is already large and shows every sign of expanding. It should be emphasized, since so many critics pretend not to notice it,  that all authentic blues and jazz share a poetically subversive core, an explosive essence of irreconcilable revolt against the shameful limits of an unlivable destiny. Notwithstanding the whimpering objections of a few timid sceptics, this revolt cannot be ‘assimilated’ into the abject mainstream of American bourgeois/Christian culture except by way of dilution and/or outright falsification. The dark truth of Afro-American music remains unquestionably oppositional. Its implacable Luciferian pride – that is, its aggressive and uncompromising assertion of the omnipotence of desire and the imagination in the face of all resistances – forever provides a stumbling-block for those who would like to exploit it as a mere commercial diversion, a mere form of ‘entertainment’.” (Preface, 7-8; from Blues and the Poetic Spirit)
Thesis: the Apollonian persona. Du Bois describes “souls of them that have become painfully conscious of their whiteness; those in whose minds the paleness of their bodily skins is fraught with tremendous and eternal significance. (Du Bois 1910, 339)” (from Ingrid Monson, Saying Something, 100) James W. Perkinson defines whiteness as a “conviction that ‘whatever else I might be, at least I am not that, not black.’” “Whiteness is the hidden offspring of white supremacy, which was itself the visible offspring of Christian supremacy.” (White Theology, 153, 154)
Antithesis: The Dionysian essence. Paul Garon concurs with Rosemont, above. “The ‘Devil’s music’ is the denunciation of everything religion stands for and the glorification of everything religion condemns. The blues singer could say, as the black surrealist poet Aimé Césaire (1939) said in his Return to My Native Land, speaking for all those of African descent throughout the world, ‘I have assassinated God with my laziness with my words with my gestures with my obscene songs’.” (Blues and the Poetic Spirit, 76) Garon quotes “the psychoanalyst Richard Sterba (1947): ‘The male Negro as he appeared in dreams of white people…often had to be recognized as representative of the dreamer’s father, particularly the father at night or in his nocturnal activities’ (416).” (Blues and the Poetic Spirit, 54) Garon notes “that the blues’ affinity for the night is retained also in the most revolutionary currents in jazz – as evidenced in the bebop of the ‘40s, when two of the leading works were Night in Tunisia and ‘Round Midnight, as well as in the more recent innovations associated with John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor and others.” (note 7, 110)
Commenting on Shirley Caesar’s sermon, Go Take a Bath, Gerald Early alludes to the times “when blacks have had to mouth the cliche about being washed in the blood of the Lamb in a culture that for so very long saw their blackness as the outward mark of their inward depravity.” (Pulp and Circumstance; from The Jazz Cadence of American Culture, 395) Patrick Arnold observes that “Elisha’s greatest water-miracle healed, not one of his own colleagues or even one of his own countrymen, but the enemy Syrian general Naaman, stricken with leprosy, whom Elisha ordered to wash seven times in the Jordan (5:1-14). The story is a famous one, and its meaning clear: the Healer is called beyond the bounds of his own petty self-interest and beyond all political beliefs and religious ideologies as well. The Healer ultimately is the archetype by which men reconcile themselves to their former enemies by experiencing with them our common need for healing and life.” (Wildmen, Warriors, and Kings, 142) Abraham Herschel: “The God of Israel is also the God of her enemies, without their knowing Him and despite their defying Him.” (The Prophets, 186)
Early reminds his readers: “It is a truism in American cultural history that the African American is both a greater demon and a greater soul…that the white, trapped by a false whiteness, seeks. Blacks become the spiritual pools in which somehow the whites must transform their own souls. This myth has been nowhere so recurrent or so powerful in our country as in the making and performance of popular music. With only those few exceptions such as country and western or easy listening music in which whites do not share much performance space with blacks, virtually every popular music in this country is considered the authentic expression of blacks.” (395)
Olly Wilson: “Black music in the United States reflects the duality of Afro-American culture of which Du Bois speaks – ‘the two souls, two thoughts, two ideals.’ On one hand, there exists what might be described as the basic or folk African-American musical tradition. This tradition evolved directly from the West African musical tradition and shares most concepts and values of that tradition while simultaneously selectively incorporating important aspects of Western musical practice. It is the musical tradition of the majority of black Americans, the people to whom Du Bois refers as ‘Black Folk,’ or to whom Leroi Jones refers as the ‘autonomous Blues People’ (Jones, 1963). It most clearly expresses the collective aesthetic values of the majority of black Americans and proceeds along a line of development which, while influenced by factors outside of Afro-American culture, is more profoundly affected by values within the culture….On the other hand there exists a tradition….characterized by a greater interaction and interpenetration of African and Euro-American elements, although the fundamental qualities which make it unique are rooted in African conceptual approaches to music making. Culturally, this tradition is a closer reflection of the second ideal to which Du Bois refers; that is, the American ideal as white America envisions.” (Black Music as an Art Form; in The Jazz Cadence of American Culture, 89)
Wilson describes a song exemplifying what he refers to “as the first, or basic, Afro-American tradition.” (91) “The modal melody is based almost entirely on an elaborate ornamentation of two essential notes a minor third apart. The technique of rocking back and forth between notes a minor third apart is a common melodic device used in African and Afro-American music and is sometimes referred to as a ‘pendular third.’ This third relationship is also used as a means of establishing an antecedent-consequent  or call-and-response relationship between the first statement of a line of text and its subsequent repetition. Such a relationship is accomplished by invariably terminating the first line of each verse with the upper pitch, A, of this interval and ending the repetition of that text with the lower pitch – F#. Since F# is the tonal center, the first phrase has an open-ended or antecedent feeling, and the second phrase has a closed or consequent feeling.” (93-94) Part 2 of Caeser’s Sermonette may exemplify this basic Afro-American tradition.
Raceless synthesis: The rebirth of spiritually black humanity. Santana: “You are light and love.” Ironically, this speech is set over Coltrane’s A Love Supreme blues riff, derived from Art Farmer’s Mau Mau. Maya Angelou complains: “the whites in our town were so prejudiced that a Negro couldn’t buy vanilla ice cream. Except on July Fourth. Other days he had to be satisfied with chocolate….Of course, I knew God was white too, but no one could have made me believe he was prejudiced.” (I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, 48) My Neapolitan genre transcends the opposition of vanilla and chocolate with the ‘strawberry’ hue of the blood of the Lamb, in whose mystical body sundry-flavored souls are incorporated into a just dessert.
Early’s assertion “that the African American is both a greater demon and a greater soul” than “the white” may be understood by following a perception of the tritone, or flatted fifth tone, as an emblem of blackness. Alex Webster of the heavy metal band Cannibal Corpse notes: “The blues scale has the flat fifth, the tritone. That’s the devil’s note.” Griffin and Washington call Russell “jazz’s most important theorist.” (Clawing at the Limits of Cool, 178) Ingrid Monson refers to the significance of Russell’s “rebelliousness of formulating a musical philosophy that inverts traditional understandings of harmony by placing the ‘devil’s interval’ (the tritone) at the center of musical understanding.” (Freedom Sounds, 293) Russell describes his Concept as a “philosophy of tonality in which the student, it is hoped, will find his own identity. The student is made aware of the whole chromatic situation surrounding the chord (vertical) or a tonal center (horizontal). It is believed that this knowledge will liberate the student’s melodic inhibitions and help him to intelligently penetrate and understand the entire chromatic universe.” (1)
Heiner Ruland: “What makes the tritone a diabolus, which is how J.S. Bach experienced it, is that it dissolves the threshold between inner world and outer world and permits the untransformed inner world to work into the outer world. Earlier (p. 57f.) we drew the boundary between inner world and outer exactly there, between fourth and fifth. The impulse of my untempered inner nature to realize itself in the outer world arrogantly and without undergoing transformation is one side of the devil.” (Expanding Tonal Awareness, 96)
The flatted fifth is “a greater demon” than other tones, but its status as “a greater soul” is suggested in Ruland’s comment on the “deepest” works of Bach: “It is no accident that when this great musical mystic seeks to present the crucifixion on Golgotha musically in his two passions, his deepest and most individual works, he repeatedly employs the chord that forms the cross in the cyclic system” (147). The four notes of a C diminished chord – C, Eb, F#, and A – form a cross in both the chromatic scale cycle and the cycle of fifths; C is at the top, F# is at the bottom, Eb and A are half way down on either side.
Hans Urs von Balthasar, the favorite theologian of the previous two Popes, perceives a “polarity in God” (Theo-Drama, III, 510), consistent with Bray’s reference to von Balthasar’s recognition “that the mutual relation of the Father and Son is a coincidence of opposites, in which opposition (conflict) is replaced by self-determination in love (Spirit). It is the Son, in particular, who represents the eternal reconciliation which extends beyond the Godhead, and is symbolized above all in the crucified manhood of Christ, which he has united to himself” (187-188). Recall King’s comment, above, that, “central to Sartre’s analysis are, first, the image of the black Christ as much as of Orpheus, a sacrificial figure whose passion permeates his existence; and, second, the concept of negritude, as a ‘moment of negativity’ that will eventually be surpassed in the dialectical movement of history.” (36) Negritude is surpassed by ascension.
I trace Sartre’s white supremacist/Negritude dialectic in Coltrane’s use of ‘white’ diatonic/cadential tonality and black blues tonality, evident in my deconstructivist reading of Ingrid Monson’s analysis of Coltrane’s My Favorite Things (on The Last Gig of J.C. webpage), in a deconstructivist reading of Kristin Hunter Lattany’s essay, ‘Off-Timing’: Stepping to the Different Drummer (on The Last Gig of Lenny Breau webpage), and in a deconstructivist reading of The Chicago Surrealist Group’s essay, Three Days that Shook the New World Order: the Los Angeles Rebellion of 1992, in my essay, After the Rap and Rain: Deconstructing the L.A. Rebellion (on the Diabolus in Musica webpage). Musical examples of this dialectical aesthetic/metaphysic are Roland Kirk’s Blacknuss and Old Rugged Cross, John Coltrane’s The Reverend King, John McLaughlin’s Friendship, Eric Clapton’s In the Presence of the Lord, and Santana’s Somewhere in Heaven.
LeRoi Jones represents “the moderns, the beboppers,” as those who dragged jazz “outside the mainstream of American culture again.” He goes on to describe how “the willfully harsh, anti-assimilationist sound of bebop fell on deaf or horrified ears.” (Blues People, 181-82) Joachim Berendt also uses the metaphor of the stream in relation to black music: “Since the midfifties, the blues has penetrated popular music to a degree unimaginable up to then. First, black rhythm ‘n’ blues – the rocking music of the black South and of the Northern ghettos – led into rock ‘n’ roll….By 1963 the best of rhythm ‘n’ blues had become so closely linked to the mainstream of American popular music that Billboard magazine temporarily suspended separate listings of ‘Rhythm and Blues’ and ‘Pop.’ (213)
“The stream of black music flowing into white rock and pop music became wider and wider, in fact, so wide that there was no, or almost no, difference anymore between black and white popular music. ‘Funkiness’ became the fashionable be-all of commercial rock music during the seventies; funk, though, came from the black ghetto and the blues – like rap and hip-hop ten years later.” (215) “It has been said that the Beatles and Bob Dylan changed the musical and social consciousness of a whole generation. In this context, it is important to realize that this change of consciousness is based on the blues and would have been impossible without it. British guitarist Eric Clapton made this very clear when he said, “’Rock is like a battery. Every so often you have to go back to the blues and recharge.’” (214) “The musical standards of the world of popular music demolished in the process were the symbols of the moral, social, and political standards of the bourgeois world that had created the old pop music. These standards were the real target of the new movement.” (214)
Noel Ignatiev: “John Langston Gwaltney wrote, in Drylongso: A Self-Portrait of Black America (New York, 1980), ‘The notion that black culture is some kind of backwater or tributary  of an American “mainstream” is well established in much popular as well as standard social science literature. To the prudent black American masses, however, core black culture is the mainstream.’ At issue is not, as many would have it, the degree to which black people have or have not been assimilated into the mainstream of American culture. Black people have never shown any reluctance to borrow from others when they thought it to their advantage. They adopted the English language – and transformed it. They adopted the Christian religion – and transformed it. They adopted the twelve-tone musical scale – and did things with it that Bach never dreamed of.” (Race Traitor, 20-21) Roger Kimball: “As the Sixties unfolded, attitudes that had characterized a tiny minority on the fringes of culture were more and more accepted into the mainstream. By the early 1970s, they had become the mainstream.” (The Long March, 27)
Kofsky comments on the transformation of musical language: “African-Americans, as possessors of a separate culture they wish to defend from the depredations of a hostile environment, have long since perfected the art of remaking the English language into a new dialect that (for a while, at an rate) serves their needs exclusively.
In this way, for instance, black musicians had earlier subverted the word bad into its dialectical opposite, a term of approbation: ‘Man, that cat is bad!’ In its jazz usage, funky, obviously, represented an extension of this tradition. To describe a musician as funky – that is, unwashed, repellent – meant that this particular individual is worse (hence better) than just bad – he or she is…funky….[This] is a means of lauding the object of praise for its specifically black qualities.” (Coltrane, 70) “[F]aced with the lightning-like preemption of ‘funky’ by the recording companies, black musicians responded by moving to ‘soul’ to describe what was in essence the same style.” (71) “One should bear in mind that the funky-soul trend in jazz was occurring in synchrony with the intensification of what was then called the civil-rights movement.” (72)
A dialectic can be traced in black and white musical scales. Stokes’ phrase, “ladders of complexity,” above, doubtless alludes to the etymology of the word scale (as in a sequence of musical notes), from the Latin ‘scala,’ meaning ladder. The etymology of the word scale (as in a sequence of musical notes), from the Latin ‘scala,’ meaning ladder, is explicit in Iain Chambers’ reference to “the lurking presence of the ‘illegitimate’ musical ladder of the ‘blues’ scale….the heart of black American sonorities were ultimately linked….to a sense of songs being ‘out of tune’ and rhythmically erratic. This, and their resulting clash with official, ‘legitimate’, musical languages (the ‘Do Re Mi…’ scale of European harmony, for example), were the obvious offspring of a ‘forbidden’ exchange.” (Urban Rhythms, 65) Victor Zuckerkandl identifies the resolution of “the V [or blues] chord” in a harmonic cadence with the proverbial prodigal son (Sense, 196).
Ashley Kahn: “Coltrane applied his universalist sensibility to all aspects of his music-making, including the saxophone itself, as Alice Coltrane told Ebony magazine: ‘He liked to draw an analogy between mankind and his horn, explaining that one group might represent the upper register, another the mid-range and yet another the deeper notes, but that it took all to make the whole.'” (Kahn, 234) Three groups of humanity, Asian, Afro-American, and European, are also represented in Cotrane’s response to a question of interviewer Ennosuke Saito: “Please name three musicians that you like.” Coltrane answered: “I’ll start with Ravi Shankar….and Ornette Coleman. And Carlos Salzedo – he’s not living at this time, but he’s one of my favorite musicians. He was a harpist. Shankar is a sitarist.” (Tokyo, 1966, C on C, 268) Three musicians that I like are French guitarist Roland Dyens, East Indian Carnatic mandolinist U Srinivas, and Afro-American saxophonist John Coltrane. Three musical philosophers who have influenced my global genre are Viennese classical music theorist Heinrich Schenker, Afro-American jazz theorist George Russell, and Sufi mystic Hazrat Inayat Khan.
Coltrane’s conception of his saxophone has some affinity with my conception of global guitar, as I am seeking to reconcile three broad groups of humanity – Asian, European, and African, or yellow, white, and black – in a single musical genre. “Frank Kofsky: Do you think that the musicians are more interested in Africa and Asia than in Europe, as far as the music goes? Coltrane: Well, the musicians have been exposed to Europe, you see. So it’s the other parts that they haven’t been exposed to. Speaking for myself, at least, I’m trying to have a rounded education.” (230) In 1960 Coltrane stated: “I haven’t assimilated everything into my playing.” Inspired by Coltrane’s rounded ideal I seek a well-rounded genre.
Hazrat Inayat Khan: “Now, if I do anything, it is to tune souls instead of instruments, to harmonize people instead of notes. If there is anything in my philosophy, it is the law of harmony: that one must put oneself in harmony with oneself and with others.” My genre transcends the duality of Khan’s statement as the tuning and plucking of musical notes is intended to inspire the attunement and transformation of the human microcosm in concert with the harmonious principles inherent in the structure of the cosmos; this ‘higher’ purpose qualifies it as a classical genre.
Three similar multi-cultural affirmations of music and being –
East Indian sitarist Ravi Shankar: “Unless I become the raga itself, I cannot feel the soul of the raga.”
Cuban classical guitarist Manuel Barrueco: “When we’re playing music we’re trying to become the music. One should begin a piece of music and wake up at the end, having become that music, having been one to flow with it. That takes a deep understanding of the music.”
Afro-American saxophonist John Coltrane: “My music is the spiritual expression of what I am – my faith, my knowledge, my being.”
Three diverse multi-cultural conceptions of music and metaphysics: Eastern Aum (strict monotheism), Western Logos (trinitarianism), and African Nommo (pantheism) –
The Divine Keynote (1) of Asia: “Indian classical music at its best can lead to an experience of oneness with a higher power, as with many other forms of music. The Sa [Western Do or keynote] represents the sound of the divine. This is Nada Brahma, the sound of God. The best performers achieve a connection with the primordial sound, the Om.” Peter Lavezzoli
How does one reconcile this monotonal conception of deity with the two notes, one and five, of the omnipresent drone played on a tanpura in Indian classical music? If the keynote “represents the sound of the divine” what does the other note, the fifth, sounded by the tanpura represent? It’s a mystery (but see above).
The Divine Cadence (5, 7, 2, 4 – 1, 3, 5) of Europe: “Tonality took the form of a harmonic system providing order, direction, and the resolution of tension into the ‘perfect chord,’ the major triad (C, E, G), which is a reflection of the divine Trinity, Father, Holy Spirit, and Son.” Dane Rudhyar
“In music the leading tone is the Gospel, which dominates the other tones.” Martin Luther
“The flat seventh [of a dominant seventh chord; the fourth of the keynote] leads all tones, which pray to it for delivery, to their source – divine spirit.” Bettina Brentano
This harmonic conception of deity is consistent with the natural fact that the fundamental tonal entity is a three note major chord, and not a single note, for a note does not resonate apart from its third and fifth. This phenomenon is nothing short of a sonic miracle. If Indian raga is non-confrontational, and African music is non-judgemental, European tonality is neither – the keynote both confronts and judges derivative tones in forms of cadential tonality. Both European and East Indian classical music are hierarchical, judgemental, and discriminatory.
Afro-American trumpeter Charles Moore: “African music says, ‘What have you got? Come on and play.’ It’s a philosophy that allows one to think that way – not, ‘Oh, man, you made a mistake – you played a B-flat!'” (156) Amiri Baraka: “Down with regular chord changes! Down with the tempered scale! The Afro Asian, microtonal, modal emphasis was ubiquitous. They would play free! Free? You bet, it has been our philosophy, our ideology, our aesthetic, since slavery began.” (Introduction, Black Music, 13) Composer George Antheil: “The African ‘sound’ in music is…a marked tendency towards the ‘black’ on the pianoforte.” (Nancy Cunard, ed., Negro: An Anthology, from The Negro on the Spiral, 215)
Amdee (Anthony Hamilton of the Watts Prophets): “I was always into spiritual things. Richard [Dedeaux] and I went to Shelly’s Manne Hole one night, all three of us then. We went to see Roland Kirk. We was the only black folks in there, and he said, ‘Baby, I’m gonna play a tune for you all and it’s called blackness [sic]. I ain’t gonna play nothing but the black keys on the piano.’ He was playing horns and all this stuff, and all of a sudden, he just leapt up, he took all his instruments and started throwing all his instruments into the back of the baby grand piano, and then he took the chair and started smashing, and we just jumped up – he was having a hard time ‘cause he was blind – so we ran up….And we ran up there and helped him. We were just wrassling, smashed the chair until it was just splinters. The manager was like ‘Goddamn it’, he never forgot that. Rahsaan (Roland Kirk) was like, ‘Don’t be mad at me baby, I’m just a old blind man.’” (It’s Not About a Salary…, 117) Kirk’s destructive representation of blackness parallels Sartre’s insistence that “Negritude is for destroying itself.” Kofsky complained that few Afro-American musicians were booked into Shelly’s Manne Hole.
Josh Kun refers to Kirk’s Blacknuss as “a composition entirely built and performed with the thirty-six black notes of the piano. ‘We don’t mean to eliminate nothin’, Kirk said in the song’s introduction, ‘but we’re gonna just hear the black notes at this time if you don’t mind’” (Audiotopia, 132) Kun: “As Vernon Martin, Kirk bassist and resident spokesman for Kirk’s Vibration Society, once put it, ‘The trueness of being black cannot be expressed any more clear than through the sounds of music.’” (136) Kirk: “’The sun sets off a whole lot of vibrations that if people close their eyes enough, they can hear the sun. Sometimes on the tenor I try to get a sun sound’” (138) Bob Kaufman: “The Sun is a Negro….Heaven is a Negro.” (Untitled, The Ancient Rain, 59) Compare with Hoffman’s first published story, Ritter Gluck, in which the composer Gluck has a synaesthetic perception of “the sun” as “the triad” and “rays of light” as “tones”, two of which, “the Tonic and the Dominant”, raise him as he is told: “’I know the reason for the longing which fills thy breast. It is the longing for the Third, that tender youth, who now steps up between the two.’”
Kun: “In 1969, inspired by the civil disobedience and public disturbance of the radical student movements of the 1960s, Kirk and Marc Davis founded the Jazz and People’s Movement, a musical activist project that fought against the extinction of black classical music at the hands of mainstream U.S. media who they claimed had normalized the exclusion of black music and  musicians from TV and radio broadcasts. The collective of fans and fellow jazz musicians grew to include the likes of Elvin Jones, Pharoah Sanders, Freddie Hubbard, Archie Shepp, and Lee Morgan, and drew up a petition that was signed by hundreds of musicians. For the movement, the suppression of black music was central to the suppression of black freedom, a fact explicitly spelled out in the manifesto they issued in 1969. ‘One of the very essential facets of the attempted subjugation of the black man in America has been an effort to stifle, obstruct and ultimately destroy black creative genius,’ the Jazz and People’s Movement ‘statement of purpose’ proclaimed, ‘and thus, rob the black man of a vital source of pride and liberating strength.’ The manifesto held that the restriction of media access to creative jazz musicians – which was a restriction of black music itself – was, in turn, a restriction of what they dubbed ‘the black quest for freedom.’
Besides issuing the manifesto and spreading the gospel of the movement in TV and radio interview, Kirk and friends – in a move that caused considerable disagreement and controversy in the jazz community – disrupted a series of TV shows: ‘The Tonight Show,’ ‘The Dick Cavett Show,’ ‘The Merv Griffin Show,’ and ‘The Ed Sullivan Show.’ On Sullivan, Kirk promised to play a sedate version of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Mon Cherie Amour’ but at the last minute switched into the manic out jam of Mingus’s ‘Haitian Fight Song,’ and on Griffin, members of the movement erupted in the studio audience, blowing small whistles until they created a chorus of high-pitched birds and holding up signs that read ‘More Jazz Music on TV’ and ‘I Love America’s Jazz Music.’” (139-40)
Kun cites “Kirk’s 1969 version of Burt Bacharach’s ‘I Say a Little Prayer,’ which he re-imagines as an angry, pissed-off prayer of protest in honor of the recently slain Martin Luther King Jr. Kirk disorganizes the song’s romantic easy-listening pop and uses it to construct something else, with betrayal and disillusionment between the notes of Bacharach’s sweet, lulling melodies and choruses. Before Kirk even lets us hear the familiar notes of Bacharach’s original, Kirk re-authors it, introducing his version with a tribute to King. ‘They shot him down,’ Kirk bitterly preaches over dissonant piano tumbles and saxophone whines. ‘They shot him down to the ground. But we gonna say a little prayer for him anyway.’ The short, snappy, and poignant three-minute ‘forever and ever you’ll stay in my hear’ love song that had been a chart-topping hit for Dionne Warwick and Aretha Franklin was now an eight-minute-long black civil rights howl….The band takes solo after solo, riffs build into riffs, bridges collapse into bridges, Kirk moans, and Coltrane’s ‘A Love Supreme’ even gets quoted (a song that is no stranger to the revolutionary politics of black music)…. And just as Bacharach seems to settle right back in at song’s end, Kirk transforms him once again, steering ‘I Say a Little Prayer’ so that it ends in the black church – a secular pop song de-formed into a gospel vamp, a choir shout, a holy moment of collective testimony.” (141-42)
Comedian Jay Leno: “When I was starting out, I used to play a primarily black club in Boston, called the Sugar Shack, just to see if I could work in front of that crowd. I toured in front of predominantly black audiences opening for a brilliant black jazz artist named Rahsaan Roland Kirk. He was really outspoken and radical, and also happened to be blind. He’d go onstage in a dashiki before I went up, and say, ‘I want to introduce a young brother who knows the black experience and knows all about the white devils….’ He’d do the whole radical Black Panther, ‘white devil’ thing, and then: ‘Please welcome Jay Leno!’ I’d walk on and whisper, ‘Shhhh…Don’t tell him I’m white.’”
The Divine Chromaticism and / or Blue Notes (b3, b5, b7) of Africa: “We can call notes by many names, but in the end they are all Sounds, and they are messengers of the Holy….Sound is Sacred…The Holy is found not only in each listener and each musician, but also in each and every Sound.” Stephen Rush on Ornette Coleman’s Harmolodics
George Russell: “You may not always be where you’d like to be in relation to the tonal gravity of the chord to which you are relating (that is you may be too close or too distant from it), but you are always somewhere within the parent Lydian Chromatic Scale of your chord.” (The Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization, 27) George Russell: “’Since the bop period, a war on the chord has been going on.’” (from The Cambridge Companion to Jazz, 192)
African Rhythm and African Sensibility, John Miller Chernoff: “Theologically speaking, it is God’s drum (Drum Himself) which beats the note that is never sounded; it is God’s drum which affirms the possibility of continuing vitality within the music. In Africa the passenger cars and trucks which bear the motto ‘Except God’ express this basis of faith: all that we can say, all that we can do, all that we can know, all truth may be applied to all things, except God. From an African religious perspective, anything in the world, no matter how powerful or effective, is limited, and in Africa the individual and the Creator God seem to have very few direct dealings beyond the basic humility and personal confidence that distinguish faith and inform action.” (157)
“Africans try to be more realistic than idealistic as they relate to the world. The music, of course, is a way of getting down to more significant concerns: its context is a context of action, of social life; its reality is that of the community. The continuing music consists of many rhythms, and the ‘beat’ emerges from the way these rhythms engage and communicate with each other. While various rhythms may be more important, no single rhythm can provide a complete focus, and in this sense there is no central point of unity, except God. Yet where Absolute reality stands removed, people must acknowledge the complexity of a plural world. Equanimity with multiple rhythms and the silent beat can and does serve to inform social relations with a cosmopolitan attitude of toleration, rationality, and pragmatism.” (157)
“In a musical context, separation of parts heightens rhythmic dialogue, and in a musical ensemble, singlemindedness of purpose would be equivalent to poverty of expression.” (158) Note 10: “Western notions of purity of heart as ‘to will one thing’ are perhaps the spiritual and moral antithesis of the African approach, in which purity of heart is manifest in mediation and the balancing of differences.” (219)
Janheinz Jahn: “The highest ruler of all loas [voodoo gods] is Bon Dieu, the good lord. He is the creator of the world, but so high above man that he is not concerned with him. He is so far away that he only laughs at the sufferings of men. One says ‘If God wills’ (Si die vle) and resigns oneself therewith to one’s fate, but one does not pray to Bon Dieu.” (Muntu, 41) Compare with the Greek Zeus. Bon Dieu is analogous to “the silent beat” of African music.
In a section titled “The Words and Exorcism” Jahn contrasts the Christian Logos and the African Nommo. (132) “All magic is word magic, incantation and exorcism, blessing and curse. Through Nommo, the word, man establishes his mastery over things. ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’, so begins the gospel according to St. John, and it looks as if Nommo and the logos of St. John agreed. Yet the apostle continues: ‘The same (i.e. the word) was in the beginning with God. All things were made by it and without it was not anything made that was made.’ In the gospels the word remains with God, and man has to testify to it and proclaim it. Nommo, on the other hand, was also, admittedly, with Amma, or God, in the beginning, but beyond that everything comes into being only through the word, and as there is Muntu, the word is with the muntu. Nommo does not stand above and beyond the earthly world. Logos becomes flesh only in Christ, but Nommo becomes ‘flesh’ everywhere. According to the apostle, Logos has made all things, once for all, to become as they are, and since then all generated things remain as they are, and undergo no further transformation. Nommo, on the other hand, goes on unceasingly creating and procreating, creating even gods. (132)
“The God of Israel said, ‘Let there be light’, and there was light, In Africa every muntu is capable of such an utterance. Every muntu, even the least of them, is by the force of his word lord over every thing over animal and plant, stone and hammer, moon and stars. If he says, ‘Let the sun fall from the sky!’ then it falls, unless a more powerful muntu than he has already, by the force of his word, commanded the sun to stay in the sky. Thus the word force of one muntu is different from the word force of another: the Nommo of Amma or Olorun or Bon Dieu is more powerful than the word of a living individual, or the Nommo of an orisha more powerful than that of one’s dead father. The hierarchy of the Bantu (‘men’ both living and dead) is ordered according to the force of each one’s word. The word itself is force.” (133)
This Bantuan hierarchy is alluded to in the following statement of Forrest G. Wood: “As recently as 1964, British religious writer Stephen Neill, in an assertion that was painfully close to the African belief that a people can only be defeated if the enemy’s god is stronger than theirs, held that the ease with which Europeans overran the [North American] natives was evidence that it had been God’s purpose for the white man to prevail.” (Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done; The Arrogance of Faith, 225)
Jahn: “The revivalist ceremonies in the Negro churches, which no one describes better than the Afro-American poert James Baldwin in his novel Go Tell it on the Mountain, contain so many residual African elements, that the comparison with the Arada rite of Voodoo is inevitable. However, we are concerned here with the differences. In the first place the drums are missing. The percussion instruments are replaced by hand-clapping and foot-stomping. But no polymetry can be produced in this way and there are no specific formulas permitting the invocation of a number of loas. The singing is therefore directed to the one Christian divinity, to whom the sermon was also addressed, and the faithful, usually many of them at a time, are ‘ridden’ by a single divinity.” (218)
“In Christianity this relation [between people and God] is unequivocally determined by God alone: God created man, commanded him, forbade him; God enlightens, punishes and redeems him. The bond of man with God (religio) is expressed in man’s obedience. In African religion this relation is reversed: religio, active worship, ‘creates’ God, as the expression ‘She Orisha’ puts it: that is, the living person (muzima) in his active worship installs the divine being as such….Necessarily, therefore, this divinity must be other than transcendent, for it is concretely present during the act of worship – or better, it is produced by the congregation during the act of worship. This occurs in the African cults, in Haitian Voodoo, in the Cuban Santeria, in the Jamaican pocomania, in the Brazilian macumba, in the Winti cults of Guiana and in the Negro churches of the United States. But while the cults of the West Indies and South America have remained polytheistic, through the equation of the loas and orishas with saints (the equation is a pure act of designation), the Negro churches perform the designation of a single divinity.
With the designation of a Christian God Christian standards penetrate the cult, above all the sharp separation of good and evil; but the nature of worship, the service of God, remains to a great extent African. For God is not only served but invoked, called up and embodied by the faithful….Musically, the change is expressed by the fact that with the loss of the drums, the polymetry which carries polytheism is lost, and all that remains is polyrhythm, which is constructed on the basis of a single metre.” (219)
Norman C. Weinstein: “Janheinz Jahn’s Muntu, a sensationally popular book about Africa in U.S. countercultural circles from the time of its publication in the early sixties, offered an extremely generalized view of African religion as sound, specifically word mysticism. Jahn’s flair for interpreting the West African religious concept of nommo led to a rhapsodic logocentricism of this order: ‘All magic is word magic, incantation and exorcism, blessing and curse. Through Nommo, the word, man establishes his mastery over things….For the word holds the course of things in train and changes and transforms them. And since the word has this power, every word is an effective word, every word is binding.’ In one of several daring leaps, Jahn extends this word mysticism to the realm of talking drums, and suggests that the early attempts to suppress drumming by slaves in the New World caused the slaves to lose their African polytheism.” (A Night in Tunisia: Imaginings of Africa in Jazz, 169)
William H. Pipes: “The African thinks of God as one who ‘has created his people and then [has] gone off and left them to the mercies of the spirits, good or bad.’” (W. D. Weatherford, The Negro from Africa to America, 43; from Say Amen, Brother!, 55) “They believe in God, in one God.  But they think that this God is ‘absent and indifferent to his people, having left them to spirits.’” (45; 56) Pipes: “This great belief in spirits tends to produce almost constant fear in the Negro:
‘Living thus in the presence of multitudes of spirits, which are disembodied and therefore ubiquitous, and which seem to retain their consciousness and memories of past experiences, the Negro is in constant terror lest he may be harmed by some spirit, whom he may have injured while in embodied human form. This constant element of fear has wrought greatly upon the emotions of the Negro…, thus explaining in part his highly emotional temperament.’” (49; 56)
Pipes: “In the African’s religion there is little emphasis upon morals, because God is absent. This becomes significant when it is observed later in this work that some Negro ministers today seemingly are without morals.” (55; 57) Pipes: “the American Negro possesses an emotional, superstitious temperament whose historical roots reach back through the days of slavery to the jungles of Africa; and this emotional nature has always needed a means of outward expression.” (156)
Tammy L. Kernodle: “Christopher Smalls….asserts that the African often constructed self-definitions from a variety of sources. That way the African profited ‘from the potential richness of a number of perspectives simultaneously.’
This can be seen in the way in which Africans seem to be able at one and the same time, and without visible strain, to hold, for example, both polytheistic “pagan” beliefs and practices and those of either Christianity or Islam, to be at the same time “traditional” and “Europeanized” in their daily lives, in ways which often puzzle and even infuriate Europeans; the latter can deal with contraction only by denying or eliminating one side of it – hence the rejection and even persecution of deviants, both sacred and secular…while African [sic] seem to be able to live happily with both sides. One might say that while the Europeans lives [sic] in a world of “either/or,” the African’s is a world of “both/and.”’” (Freedom as a Constant Struggle: Alice Coltrane and the Redefining of the Jazz Avant-Garde; from John Coltrane and Black America’s Quest for Freedom, 97)
“‘He’s telling us God is everywhere – in every register, in every key.'” Lewis Porter’s interpretation of the three note riff that Coltrane plays thirty seven times, in different keys, in the Acknowledgement of A Love Supreme; from Ashley Kahn, A Love Supreme, 102.
Double Consciousness in Music: American (and/or European) and African
Cornell West: “Black music is paradigmatic of how black persons have best dealt with their humanity, their complexity – their good and bad, negative and positive aspects, without being excessively preoccupied with whites….Coltrane [was] just being [himself].” (Prophetic Reflections, 16) Really? Coltrane plays his love supreme riff over twenty eight key changes, representing all twelve keys of the chromatic scale: F, G, D, Ab, Db, C, D, Eb, Ab, Db, A, F, D, Ab, B, E, B, Db, Eb, Bb, C, G, D, E, Gb, G, Ab, F. In contrast, Coltrane plays just three notes in the invocation to Acknowledgement – F#, B, and E – the root notes of the basic jazz cadence or turnaround. The contrast between the three note invocation in E and the (supreme?) three note blues riff played in every key in Coltrane’s Acknowledgement seems to me a musical manifestation of W. E. B. Du Bois’ double consciousness: “One ever feels his two-ness – an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.” (Strivings of the Negro People, 1897; from Black Nationalism in America, Introduction, xxv)
Ashley Kahn: “Whether it is labeled as sacred versus profane, gospel versus blues, God’s work versus the devil’s music, the classic (and still pervasive) African-American paradigm that holds church matters and popular culture in diametric opposition, that separates true spirituality from such music as jazz, held no sway in Coltrane’s self-erected system.” Frantz Fanon mentions the black man’s “need for uninhibitedness.” (Black Skin, White Masks, 106)
Coltrane commented on his 1965 album Meditations: “Once you become aware of this force for unity in life, you can’t ever forget it. It becomes part of everything you do. In that respect this is an extension of A Love Supreme since my conception of that force keeps changing shape.” This change is suggested in Coltrane’s confession, “Perhaps my main fault is that I have a natural feeling for the minor. I’d like to do more things in the major.” It is concretely manifest in the repeated riff of The Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost (5, 1, 2, 3), recalling the repeated riff of Acknowledgement from A Love Supreme, but modulated to the major mode and played in nineteen keys representing every key except for Ab: C#, F#, Eb, C, F, D, G, C, A, F#, Eb, C, A, D, G, E, C#, Bb, B. These major key transpositions begin and end with sharp keys, whereas the minor key transpositions of the love supreme riff begin and end in F, a flat key.
Guitarist Michael Bloomfield called Canadian guitarist Sonny Greenwich “the Coltrane of guitar players.” A reviewer refers to “Greenwich’s vision of a guitar-based version of the John Coltrane Quartet.” At 3:10 of his song Black Beauty Greenwich begins to play what Branford Marsalis calls Coltrane’s “blues lick” from A Love Supreme; from 6:50-7:20 Greenwich plays the “lick” over seven root notes: A, D, Bb, Eb, B, E, and Db. The three note riff over these key centers covers all of the notes in the chromatic scale. Therefore, Greenwich’s Coltranean citation in his Black Beauty indicates that he is making a musical statement of black theology, as well as black aesthetics. This indication is supported by Greenwich’s statement, “I play [music] to awake[n] people spiritually – that’s the only reason.” The Canadian Encyclodpedia mentions Greenwich’s “pursuit of a personal religion similar to pantheism.”
An ethical complement to the metaphysics of pantheism, which maintains that all is God or God is all, is the phrase it’s all good. Canadian guitarist Lenny Breau describes what he calls “the John Coltrane thing” in ethical terms. “It sounds right, because it’s musically correct, so all you got to know is that and then you can’t play a wrong note, because you know your moves. See what I mean? And that’s the John Coltrane bag.” George Russell calls modal jazz “a horizontal approach; it’s a rebellion against the chord.” Joachim-Ernst Berendt states: “Modal playing also means a further Africanization of the music, away from the ‘dictatorship’ of European harmonies toward the free harmonization that exists in many African musical cultures (not only in the Arab and the Muslim ones).” (Jazz Book, 225) Spiritually conscious modal jazz, in which all notes are identified with the divine, may be regarded as the polar opposite of Indian raga, in which the keynote is identified with the divine. The harmonic cadence, which Europeans have associated with a divine Trinity, may be seen to be located between these extreme poles.
Afro-American saxophonist Ornette Coleman originated a musical philosophy called harmolodics, which seeks to free musical compositions from any tonal center, allowing harmonic progression independent of traditional European notions of tension and release. Coleman defines harmolodics as “music intended to bring out the fundamental of the listener without modulation.” (Prime Time for Harmolodics. Down Beat, July 1983, pp. 54-55. Quoted in Gioia (1990), p.43.) Oz Fritz: “In my estimation, this appears completely congruent to the notion of discovering and aligning to one’s True Will.” Coleman said that what he was trying to do with his music was to conquer death. Compare with Schenker’s notion of a sacrificial will of tones. From A. B. Spellman’s Four Jazz Lives: “[Don] Cherry recalls that during one set at the Malamo they were playing “The Song Is You,” and that while he was playing his solo, Ornette ‘whispered in my ear and told me about playing a flatted ninth from a flatted fifth and that put me a half step above the key I was playing in.” (121)
“Harmony, melody, speed, rhythm, time and phrases all have equal position in the results that come from the placing and spacing of ideas.” Gunther Schuller suggests that harmolodics is based on the superimposition of the same or similar phrases, thus creating polytonality and heterophony. (Ronald M. Radano (1994). New Musical Figurations: Anthony Braxton’s Cultural Critique, p.109 & 109-110n97) This describes Coltrane’s transposition of riffs in Acknowledgement and The Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. Spellman states that in the early 1960s “Ornette’s work had a profound effect on…John Coltrane….Coltrane came to hear Ornette whenever he was in New York, and admits not only that Ornette showed him an entirely new range of possibilities for his own playing but also that his own music entered a new phase of improvisation with a good deal more abandon than he had allowed before listening to Ornette.” (125) Kofsky acknowledges that “Coleman has had a momentous effect on young musicians – as well as on Coltrane himself, for that matter….it is quite possible that Coleman’s ultimate significance for the jazz revolution will be primarily in the realm of theory, rather than that of performance.” (Coltrane, 297)
Coleman’s arrangement of a Bach Prelude almost comes to a ‘European’ resolution, with Coleman ending on the leading tone of the keynote. Stephen Rush: “In Harmolodic music there is no strict or set notion of rhythm, melody, or even of musical key….Harmolodics, at its core, demands that every player be completely and totally aware of all of the musical elements, as well as the other musicians, at all times. No longer does one musician have an elevated sense of importance. No longer does one musician have a prescribed function. Everyone one is equally important to the articulation of the process and the success of the realized composition….In a liturgy that employs the improvisational approach of Harmolodics, the worshipers feel a connection to God and to each other through collective engagement. This frankly African approach to liturgy (tribal music making is not a ‘leader-based’ approach: everyone has a significant function) creates the feeling of inclusion, of acceptance and love.” (Better Get it in Your Soul: What Liturgists Can Learn from Jazz, 13)
“In Harmolodic theory, Unison can be understood to mean that the notes C and F# are equivalent. Jazz musicians, such as George Russell in particular, have been pointing this out for years, talking about the ‘Tritone substitution’ – the relationship between C and F# is, indeed, called the interval of a Tritone. In harmolodic theory though, these notes are not substitutes for each other. They are the same. How is this possible, and what does this mean on a deeper level? It means that we can call notes by many names, but in the end they are all Sounds, and they are messengers of the Holy. In the same way, each of us has our own name, but God is present in us, trying to be revealed in each of us. Surely, we have, like the notes, our own names, our own identities. But in each essence, sonic or human or both, there is One Holiness. If we recognize this, we can be in unison.” “Sound is Sacred…The Holy is found not only in each listener and each musician, but also in each and every Sound.” (14)
A musical manifestion of double consciousness can also be traced in George Russell’s chromatic system, in which a chromatic scale is “the big parent scale.” “The parent scale of a chord [Lydian] is the small parent scale within the big parent scale, the Lydian Chromatic Scale.” (10) The “ultimate goal” is “a chromatic scale to have all the notes at our command.” (22) This goal involves chromatic enhancement of scalar melodies. When improvising over a chord “you are free to do anything your taste may dictate, for you can resolve the most ‘far out’ melody since you always know where home is (the parent member scale within the parent Lydian Chromatic Scale).” (27) Home is surely the chord, which dictates the melody. Russell’s treatise is, in his own phrase, a rebellion against the chord, for the student is free to do anything his taste may dictate (note the contradiction with a previous assertion that “the melody is dictated by the chord.”) with all the notes at his command. A tendency towards chromaticism is evident in Max Roach’s Tears for Johannesburg, based on a Bb root.
Heiner Ruland describes a sequence of chromatic tones as “a musical ‘wailing'” and “a soulful outburst” (145). “Precisely the effect of falling out of a musical context is an aspect of the chromatic sequence that musicians have played upon ever since the Classical period. If we listen to the chromatic run in Mozart’s Fantasty in D Minor (K 397), or to one of the many other similar passages in the Classical literature, we will notice how our inner musical sense temporarily abandons us during the course of rapid halftone steps, leaving us to slide through external musical space without any support or means of orientation. At last, with the final tone of the chromatic run, we suddenly regain our ‘inner musical feet’ and again experience the music as having its source in inner experience. At that moment the musical experience is all the more intense, like the feeling of a child once more in its mother’s arms after it has wandered from her and been lost for a while” (145).
The collapse of a European religious sensibilty in the late nineteenth century was accompanied by a partial abandonment of European tonality. A European manifestation of Du Bois’ double consciousness may be what Robert Bailey refers to as “a double tonic complex” (from Lewis, 19). Before the middle of the nineteenth century Western music was governed by monotonality, described by Schoenberg as a principle whereby “‘every digression from the tonic is considered to be still within the tonality’” and, therefore, “‘subordinate to the central power of a tonic’” (Structural Functions of Harmony, 19; from Lewis, 17). Monotonal music is not monotonous, as there are key changes; however, Christopher Lewis describes changes in key as “merely prolonged chromatic elaborations of the fundamental diatonic progression that is prolonging the tonic triad” (17). According to Lewis the Tristan Prelude is the first piece of music to break from monotonality and to feature “two tonics both successively and simultaneously” (18), a description of Bailey’s double tonic complex.
Linda Martín Alcoff: “Perhaps white identity needs to develop its own version of “double consciousness”; indeed, to name as such that two-sided sense of the past and the future that can be found in aspects of the works discussed in this essay. White double consciousness is not the move between white and black subjectivities or black and American perspectives, as DuBois developed the notion. Instead, for whites, double consciousness requires an everpresent acknowledgment of the historical legacy of white identity constructions in the persistent structures of inequality and exploitation, as well as a newly awakened memory of the many white traitors to white privilege who have struggled to contribute to the building of an inclusive human community. The Michelangelos stand beside the Christopher Columbuses, and Noam Chomskys next to the Pat Buchanans.” (History is a Weapon)
Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream “to transform the jangling discords of [society] into a beautiful symphony.” In the film, Mr. Holland’s Opus, a student tells her teacher, also the main character, “We are your symphony, Mr. Holland. We are your notes and your opus. We are the music of your life.” How are persons analogous to notes in a symphony? To answer that question I will turn to a bit of theology.
Theologian Wayne Grudem describes his conception of relations among the persons of the Christian Trinity: “Within the one being of God the ‘unfolding’ of personality must allow for the existence of three distinct persons, while each person still has the whole of God’s being in himself. The difference in persons must be one of relationship, not one of being, and yet each person must really exist. This tri-personal form of being is far beyond our ability to comprehend. It is a kind of existence far different from anything we have experienced, and far different from anything else in the universe.”
These last two sentences are qualified by an earlier statement of Grudem’s likening the work of the Trinity in “the history of redemption” to “a great symphony.” It is significant that Grudem, like so many others, intuitively employs a musical analogy to describe the intricacy and complexity of the spiritual world, for music is truly a key to revealing metaphysical mysteries. In 1962 the recently canonized Pope John XXIII likened the life of the Church to “a living symphony, an image of the heavenly Jerusalem and a kind of echo of the divine harmonies.” This analogy is expressed with the more direct trope of the metaphor in the title of Hans Urs von Balthazar’s book, Truth is Symphonic. Ratzinger, the former Pope, uses a similar trope in his reference to “attempts made in theology to depict the inner harmony upon which the relationship of the Trinity rests.”
The history of redemption is comparable to Godwin’s description of the archetypal form of a symphony: “As far as tonality is concerned, all classic movements tell the same story of leaving the home key, exploring other key areas, and returning. It is an archetypal tale one never tires of hearing, whether in its simplest form as the binary dance (minuet, waltz, etc.) or in the epic complexity of a symphonic movement by Beethoven or Brahms.” This last sentence is echoed in Schenker’s recognition that “great artists have moulded their symphonies according to precisely the same rules by which the people have given expression through folksong.”
The primary role of the triad in the rules referred to by Schenker is evident in his recognition that “the unfurling of a triad is music – it is music’s sum and substance”; this first phrase recalls Grudem’s reference to “the unfolding” of the three persons of the Trinity. Schenker correctly regards all music, whether symphonic or folk music, as moulded by the tonal norm of the triad, which Levarie and Levy describe as “a harmonic archetype.” Schenker’s opinion accords with Christensen’s summary of Rameau’s musical thought: “Rameau’s conclusion is simple. Since all music seems to be an elaboration of the basic proportions contained in the corps sonore [major triad], this natural phenomenon is the unique source and generator of music.”
These statements of Rameau and Schenker are not idiosyncratic, for their theories dominated Western music theory from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries. Therefore, if we take Grudem’s analogy literally, we could say, in the form of a syllogism, that if the work of the Trinity is analogous to a symphony, and if a symphony is the unfolding of a triad, therefore the work of the Trinity is analogous to the unfolding of a triad. These last two phrases are consistent with Lippius’ perception of the triad as both the “compendium of musical composition” and “the image of that great mystery, the divine and solely adorable Unitrinity.”
A classical sonata has five sections: introduction, exposition, development, recapitulation, and coda. In my Global Guitar genre, which could also be called Global Symphony (if that does not sound overly grand), the introduction and coda are played as a raga with a drone, or as a Coltranean invocation or psalm, expressing the unity of tone, representing the divine parent. The exposition and recapitulation are the piece of music proper, consisting of a fixed harmonic and melodic structure in the form of a composition, representing the divine child. The development is a spontaneous improvisation over a relatively free form, representing the divine spirit. As my genre blends Asian, European, and African classical sensibilities I regard it as a musical manifestation of Luther King Jr.’s dream to transform society and humanity into a symphony. Just as “each person [of the divine Unitrinity] still has the whole of God’s being in himself,” so each ‘complete’ person has Asian, European, and African traits discussed below. My global guitar genre is in part an endeavour to become a complete musician.
Global Guitar Theory
My concept is based on my perception of Parent, Child, and Spirit of the Trinity (my general terms) as analogous to the first three harmonic overtones – first, fifth, and third – forming the perfect chord. I regard Indian classical music as analogous to the Parent in its focus on the keynote, sa (Western do), as a representation of the symbolically parental deity; thus the primacy of the drone. I regard European classical music as analogous to the Child in its focus on the fifth note, manifest in the prodigal son motif of sonata, rondo, and similar cadential forms, away from home plate, through the bases, and back to the plate for a home run. I regard Coltrane’s African classical music as analogous to the Spirit in his desire to be led from a natural spirit of pain and suffering, represented by blue notes of minor third, flat seventh, and flat fifth, to a spiritual state of enlightenment and elation, represented by the three tones of the major chord of nature. A function of the Spirit is purification and this was a concern of Coltrane’s.
Divine Parent, Child, and Spirit are analogous to attributes of power, wisdom, and love, respectively. East Indian classical music focuses on an omnipresent drone, which manifests the power of the divine Parent. European classical music focuses on the cadential motion of the dominant chord to the tonic, which manifests the wisdom of the divine Child; note the gender of the Child is ambiguous, as the man Jesus is the fulfillment of divine Wisdom, represented as a daughter of God. The second person of the Trinity also likens himself to a mother hen in Mt. 23:37. My global genre is not necessarily gender specific, therefore. The African classical music of Coltrane focuses on a love supreme which leads the improviser away from the dark sonorities of blue notes to the triadic tones manifesting the divine Spirit of light and love; this melodic leading is the essence of Coltrane’s quest for a serious, African classical music. This world classical music genre honors the musical contributions of Asians, Europeans, and Africans, and reconciles them in a harmonious genre.
I am not suggesting that the Asian consciousness is most powerful or paternal, but that the consciousness of the separate self is less developed, less individualistic, and therefore more inclined to absorption into the One. This consciousness may account for the ominpresence of the drone in East Indian music, from which derivative tones never stray. The transpersonal psychology of Ken Wilber speaks to this contrast of consciousness between East and West.
In ecclesiastical terms, the raga may be analogous to the mystical art of the Eastern Orthodox Church, in which the function of the artist is relatively anonymous and transparent in the task of uncovering the divine archetypes and forms. Chant as a focus on the Parent. Lutheran Protestantism was the spiritual soil that first developed the theory of triad and Trinity, which gave birth to symphonic structures that were accepted into the Roman Catholic Church in the early twentieth century. Symphony and sonata as a focus on the Child in relation to the Parent, and the focus on the ‘great’ composer. Pentecostalism focuses on the Spirit, and is relatively free and spontaneous, as is Coltrane’s ‘African Classical’ ideal as I understand it as a desire to be led by the Spirit from pain to elation, manifest in the transition (the title of a Coltrane album) from blue notes and minor thirds to major sonorities. Nat Hentoff likened Coltrane’s music to “speaking in tongues“.
Alternatively, the Parent could be analogous to Israel, which St. Paul likens to the root of “a cultivated olive tree.” (Rom. 11:24) The Child could be analogous to branches of “an olive tree that is wild by nature,” and grafted onto the cultivated root, and the Spirit analogous to “the nourishing sap from the olive root.” (Rom. 11:17)
Joachim of Fiore developed a theory of three historical ages, each represented by a personage of the Christian Trinity. “The Age of the Father, corresponding to the Old Testament, is characterized by obedience of mankind to the Rules of God. The Age of the Son, between the advent of Christ and 1260, is represented by the New Testament, when Man became the son of God. The Age of the Holy Spirit, impending (in 1260), when mankind was to come in direct contact with God, reaches the total freedom preached by the Christian message. The Kingdom of the Holy Spirit, a new dispensation of universal love, would proceed from the Gospel of Christ, but transcend the letter of it.”
It may be significant that consciousness of the relation between triad and Trinity is evident in writings from the thirteenth century. Dane Rudhyar states that “the ‘natural third’ relationship generates the energy of love….This interval of natural third was accepted into music during the centuries of the Crusades. Its acceptance was synchronous with the extraordinary development in southern France of…the spiritualization of love.” On the webpage Diabolus in Musica I explore a contemporary consciousness of evil in association with the devil’s interval.
The sun revolves from east to west, as does my genre. Consciousness of the keynote is the legacy of the East, East India, in the form of the drone. Middle Eastern music has the same consciousness in the melodic journey from and back to the keynote. Consciousness of the first harmonic overtone, after the octave, the fifth, is the legacy of Europe, in the form of the cadence. Consciousness of the next harmonic overtone, the third, is the legacy of Afro-America, as represented in the classical music of John Coltrane, in the form of blue notes modulating to brighter tones, expressing the motion from negative emotions of pain and anger to positive emotions of joy and elation. East Indian classical music is spiritual in its focus on the attunement of the audience to the fundamental drone keynote. European classical music is intellectual in its focus on form and structure. Coltrane’s African classical music is emotional in its focus on feeling. Asian, European, African; foundation, form, feeling; keynote, cadence, blue notes to triadic tones; contemplative, formal, pentecostal; meditative, intellectual, emotional.
Global guitar is not Eurocentric, Afrocentric, or Asiacentric. Nor is it eccentric, as it seeks to move listeners from spiritual peripheries to the divine source and center of tonal sound and vibration. It is, therefore, theocentric music. Another element to be explored is the East Indian insistence that the downbeat is the most prominent beat and the seeming African tendency for emphasizing and identifying with the backbeat, in reggae (Bob Marley’s One Drop), rock (Chuck Berry’s Rock and Roll Music), and even the clapping of hands on the backbeat in southern gospel, for examples Joshua’s Troop’s Everybody Clap Your Hands and and Bill Gaither’s In TIme, On TIme, Every TIme. Is the backbeat analogous to a blue note, in that it must be purified and lifted from the trough to the crest of the rhythmic wave as Israel came out of Egypt or as Jesus rose from the tomb? Ezra Pound: “Music rots when it gets too far from the dance. Poetry atrophies when it gets too far from music.”
My multi-racial conception of the harmonic triad, an emblem of the Christian Trinity, recalls the tri-racial representation of the Trinity in the novel The Shack, by Canadian author William P. Young. The main character of the novel enters a “shack and encounters manifestations of the three persons of the Trinity. God the Father takes the form of an African American woman who calls herself Elousia and Papa, Jesus Christ is a Middle-Eastern carpenter, and the Holy Spirit physically manifests himself as an Asian woman named Sarayu.”
Global Guitar Practice
How would this new genre sound in performance? It aims to preserve the ‘form’ in a musical per’form’ance. The function of a classical prelude is similar to that of the alap section of a raga. Both genres allow the musicians to tune their instruments and get settled into the key of the piece, and perhaps to offer a prayer invoking the deity. The next section would be the piece of music proper, consisting of a harmonic and melodic structure. Improvisation would follow, allowing the ‘pentecostal’ desire of Coltrane to be led in his melodies to be manifest. Then a return to the ‘European’ form, and possibly a coda with the ‘Eastern’ or ‘Asian’ meditation on the return to the keynote and its accompanying harmony in the form of a major chord, the harmonic symbol of the divine Trinity.
Each piece of music takes listeners on a journey. The word journey derives from the root ‘jour’, meaning day. The music follows the course of the sun from its rising in the east, corresponding to the opening prelude or alap of a raga where the keynote and chord are gradually unfolded, to the zenith with the exposition of a main melody or theme, to the setting in the west, with the development of the musical material, and the recapitulation of the theme and an optional drone like ending or coda, bringing the piece full circle. Sonata form is preceded by a prelude or alap raga section and features improvisational sections with embellishments of blue notes manifesting the tension and resolution of human and divine spirits and wills.
My first experiment with this world classical genre was with Coltrane’s Dear Lord, and I was very pleased with the results. It integrates all of my instincts as a musician. It fuses the European tendency towards structure and form, the African tendency to relative freedom in form and emotional variety and intensity, and the Asian tendency to unify. The Asian prelude and ending dissolve the ego and manifest the unity underlying all things, and so is somewhat Buddhist, in the sense of regarding the separate ego self as an illusion. I see each phase of the music as parts of a Christian spiritual journey that seeks to integrate spiritual tendencies and inclinations of yellow, black, and white, if such generalizations can be made.
My second attempt was with Coltrane’s song, Welcome, and I feel I’ve found my voice with this ‘global genre.’ The meditative intro reminds me that music is sacred and I should be thankful for participating in it. It is the opposite of the approach of pop music to rush in to the song and express the ego. The structure of the melody and harmony are conventional, yet given spiritual context by the intro, and the improvised section allows the freedom to introduce blue notes conveying my human spirit and emotional depth in relation to the impeccable form of the piece. When I return to the form I carry some of the ‘African’ feeling and ‘Asian’ contemplation to the ‘European’ structure. At the end I have the option of brooding on the harmonic key, as I did in the intro, as a microcosm of how all things will return to the One in the fullness of time. After having tried this multicultural approach with some pieces by Fernando Sor I can say that I think I’ve found my musical voice with this global symphonic genre.
Global Guitar Justification
Pop singer Sting stated: “Pop is dead. Rock music is dying.” “Music is a bigger cosmos than the ghetto we are in just now.” “We are on a search for the meaning of life after the postmodernist age.” The present Pope stated: “when the religious ground is cut away from under music, then…music and indeed art itself are threatened.” Music theorist Lucia Dlugoszenski describes the result of her attempt to experience music without a metaphysical ground: “Experiencing music through the senses as a kind of relative, hedonistic, irresponsible selfish pleasure degenerates into an effete personal aestheticism where no two people can agree.” Heiner Ruland states a similar view in a chapter entitled “The Development of Western Third Consciousness and its Crisis” in which he states that “contemporary music created without reference to a Logos is experienced as having a strikingly close correspondence to our subjective, wholly personal experience. All of music’s cosmic elevation is lost and the listener is thrown back upon his own feelings, sentiments and passions…all that remains is a subjective, hedonistic enjoyment of the [harmonic] alterations, and a music that expresses a feeling for life that is satisfied by ignoring its spiritual background and merely pursuing whatever brings personal enjoyment. In consequence, all the cyclic forces – both those ‘dying out’ in the harmony of alterations and those that still are very much ‘alive’ in the cadence – degenerate into spiritless slang, an empty facade: neither are experienced with any artistic spirit.”
The cadence degenerates into spiritless slang when it is no longer commonly employed with reference to spiritual regeneration, as it was in the past. Goehr undermines this contemporary trend in her assertion, cited earlier, that “the claim regarding philosophy’s identity with music…carries as much weight today…as it carried in German Romanticism”. This identity of philosophy with music originates with Pythagoras, whose perception of a musical cosmos is shared by contemporary physicists who, like Greene, regard elementary particles as being “all part of the same cosmic score.” A musical cosmos, however, implies the existence of a cosmic composer, to whose key we may become attuned through the mediation of a philosophical Logos.
 Ratzinger, Problems, 216.  Ruland, 136.  Ibid., 150.  Greene, Fabric, 428.
Global Guitar Elements
Roland Dyens is the only classical guitarist I am aware of who begins his concerts with a completely improvised piece and likes to begin pieces with a prelude for reasons that transcend aesthetics. Dyens comes close to my idea of a global classical guitarist; however, his atheism is a limitation in my view. Dyens states that it “is time that fine-tuning (as opposed to plain tuning up) was no longer considered a waste of time or, even worse, some sort of punishment to be inflicted on the audience and performer alike. This is a completely mistaken idea. Fine-tuning can, on the other hand, be transformed into a ritual of pleasure, an introduction or prelude to the music that is about to be played, rather in the manner of Indian sitar players or flamenco guitarists.” (Twenty Letters, iii) “A guitarist should, like a flamenco guitarist, lutenists in previous centuries or north Indian sitar-players today, make a veritable prelude out of this fine tuning.” (v)
Yehudi Menuhin notes: “Indian musicians spend half an hour or more tuning up. Their accuracy of pitch is in fact inseparable from their inspiration. The audience enjoys the preparation just as much, feeling that it is already sharing in the process of what is to follow, and in its turn the music emerges imperceptibly out of the process of tuning. The perfect fifth supports the sympathetic strings tuned to the particular scale or note sequence called a raga. The Indian raga lies somewhere between a scale and a melody. There are hundreds of ragas, each designed for a particular time of day and night, thus uniting performer and listener to nature and time in a unique way.” (Blackwell, 194; Music of Man, 50-1) “When the performers take time to tune their instruments they are tuning themselves to the raga. After all, musical performance is ideally the practice of Nada Yoga – the Yoga of Sound. The raga is treated with reverence, with moksha (spiritual liberation) as the ultimate goal. Tuning the correct pitches of the raga takes time and is a form of meditation.” (Peter Lavezzoli, 40) My Christian raga would aim to unite performer and listener to the Triune deity.
The prelude or tuning also functions as an invocation, perhaps a time for audience and performer to offer gratitude for the gift of sound and vibration and the opportunity to participate in this divine mystery. The prelude makes the performance piece analogous to slow food, as opposed to fast food, and to saying grace, as opposed to wolfing down a meal. In this way the ensuing music is perceived as a sacred gift that performer and audience are given, rather than as a way for the performer to show off. The prelude civilizes the performance, transforming it into a ceremony and a cathartic ritual.
Violinist Yehudi Menuhin: “Indian music reflects Indian life having no predetermined beginning or end but flowing without interruption through the fingers of the composer-performer.” Life as a river, or as the flow of breath through the body.
Indian ragas are written for Hindu purposes. Theatre has its origins in ancient Greek religion, with Dionysian revelries and so on. As English poet John Milton employed Greek forms, such as epic and tragedy, for Christian purposes, so I propose a new genre of Christian raga. Milton put Christian content into the Greek forms. Hindus recognize the keynote as a manifestation of deity, and they recognize a trinity. Just as Milton transformed Greek tragedy and epic to suit his Christian themes, I propose to transform East Indian raga to demonstrate the universality of musical language as a communicative tool of the Christian Trinity, or, in Milton’s phrase, to “assert th’ Eternal Providence.”
The tanpura is a drone instrument playing the first and fifth tones of a scale. I recognize the first, fifth, and third tones as analogous to Parent, Child, and Spirit, respectively, of the Christian Trinity. Peter Lavezzoli: “Indian classical music at its best can lead to an experience of oneness with a higher power, as with many other forms of music. The Sa [Western Do or keynote] represents the sound of the divine. This is Nada Brahma, the sound of God. The best performers achieve a connection with the primordial sound, the Om.” Om has three syllables. In place of the keynote representing the sound of Brahma, the Om, I recognize the major triad representing the sound of the Christian Trinity. Therefore, the drone of the keynote represents the everlasting light of God the divine Parent of Jesus Christ. In place of the Hindu phrase, nada brahma, I represent the tonal triad as a manifestation of the Holy Trinity.
Dane Rudhyar states that “the ‘natural third’ relationship generates the energy of love….This interval of natural third was accepted into music during the centuries of the Crusades. Its acceptance was synchronous with the extraordinary development in southern France of…the spiritualization of love….The ancient Greek culture did not know of such a love, for ‘platonic love’ had another meaning, that of pure friendship.” Rudhyar’s association of the third interval with love accords with Marsilio Ficino’s more general observation that love may “be observed in music, in which artists investigate what ratios love, to a greater or lesser degree, what other ratios…By certain intervals and modes they make high and low voices, naturally different, blend together better. From this, smoothness and sweetness of harmony derive.” (214-15)
The major third is the love that binds the keynote with the fifth interval. The lack of the third in the raga drone is a deficiency that I would surmount in my revised genre. Ruland states that “an encounter with tone transported [humanity in antiquity] immediately to a spiritual, immaterial life.” (49) This is still true in regards to traditional Indian raga. However, the absence of the third in the drone implies to me that the fundamental and fifth exist in a tragic separation analogous to Spirit and matter, to Creator and creature, and that the ego of the creature must completely dissolve in order to attain union with the Creator. The presence of the third is analogous to the divine love that binds the two in a mystical union in which both are preserved. Ecstacy does not entail complete self-abandonment, but rather a mystical participation with the divine ground of creation.
Ruland: “Experience of the third is unthinkable without the Christian mysticism of the Middle Ages. The person of antiquity still experienced the divine outside of himself, in the world and in nature. Not so in the Middle Ages, when Meister Eckhart’s ‘small spark of the soul’ was experienced entirely in the inwardly-directed devotion of folded hands and in the innermost chambers of the individual soul….None of the great masters of western music is imaginable without this inner temple of the third, which provides shelter for both a communion with the highest spirituality, which is the origin of all music, and also for inner personal experience” (58).
Ravi Shankar compares the invocation of a raga with Coltrane’s A Love Supreme: “‘We have this piece ‘Alap’: it’s without drums, very slow and serene, and is meant to be like an invocation or prayer – very, very spiritual. But if the listener listens without being told that this is the theme, it may give him a feeling of tranquility perhaps, but he would not necessarily be thinking in a Godly manner. What Coltrane felt in making A Love Supreme may not be exactly the same as what the listener gets. He might feel romantic or very sad. Or very spiritual, feeling God.'” (Kahn, 213)
Like its Western counterpart, Indian classical music theory perceives tones as analogous to dramatic characters. Sufi mystic Khan writes: “Each raga has an administration of its own, including a chief, Mukhya, the key-note, vadi, a principle note; Samvadi, a minister, a subordinate note; Anuvadi, a servant, an assonant note; and Vivadi, an enemy, a dissonant note [which is never played].” (62) Inayat Khan. The Mysticism of Sound. Banff: Ekstasis Editions, 2004. vadi and samvadi; major 3 and 7; minor 6 and 2; 1 and 5. In this sense, Indian classical music is non-confrontational, as the enemy note is never played.
In my genre of Christian raga the keynote is analogous to God the Father, the perfect fifth to the Son, and the major third to the Holy Spirit. The flat fifith is the devil’s interval in relation to the fundamental and, in the words of Rudolph Steiner, “when the minor third is played, one feels pain in the soul, the predominance of the sentient body, but when the major third resounds, it announces the victory of the soul.”
My Christian raga has an antecedent in works by John Coltrane, such as Psalm, Alabama, Seraphic Light, and the Invocation to A Love Supreme. Therefore I will refer to this genre, or section of a global symphonic form, as an invocation or a psalm. Coltrane plays almost exactly one note for each syllable of the poem, and bases his phrasing on the words. Ratliff states that A Love Supreme “includes a word-based recitation, probably his best, in ‘Psalm,’ taking off from Coltrane’s poem, which was printed on the LP sleeve. (‘Thank you, God’ is the refrain in between lines; in that phrase, the word ‘God’ always signals a return to the tonic.)” (Ratliff, 91) This is similar to a raga, then.
My models of the genre of Psalm are Coltrane’s invocation to Acknowledgement and Psalm, from A Love Supreme. I transform these models by not avoiding the keynote, representing the divine Parent, as does Coltrane in his invocation, and by replacing Coltrane’s trinitarian melodic motif of 1, 2, and 5, or E, F#, and B, in the key of E, with the harmonic major chord. I transform the Psalm by setting it in a major key; therefore the second note of Coltrane’s Psalm, a minor third corresponding to the word Love, would not evoke the pain and sensuality of the minor third, but rather the elation and victory of the major third.
Coltrane wanted the “last chord [of the entire suite] to sound like [the] final chord of Alabama.” Mau Mau alludes to a Kenyan uprising against British colonialists and Alabama concerns the burning of a church by white racists (the KKK), that resulted in the death of four black girls. Coltrane’s Alabama and Psalm share the same key, C-, and grave feel. Coltrane based his song, Alabama, on Martin Luther King’s eulogy, which ends: “Good night, those who symbolize a new day. (Yeah, Yes) And may the flight of angels (That’s right) take thee to thy eternal rest. God bless you.”
In my interpretation the third to last sentence corresponds to the following notes. Good night – 5, 5 – those who – 1, 5 – symbolize a new day – 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, major 3rd. This last note is the only major third of the whole peice. It seems to me significant that the major third is absent from Coltrane’s Psalm; perhaps the significance is that Coltrane had not found his new day of deliverance, as David typically does in the Biblical psalms. Coltrane’s Psalm ends: “I have seen God – I have seen ungodly – none can be greater – none can compare to God. Thank you God. He will remake us…He always has and He always will. It is true – blessed be His name – thank you God. God breathes through us so completely…so gently we hardly feel it…yet, it is our everything. Thank you God. ELATION – ELEGANCE – EXALTATION – All from God. Thank you God. Amen.”
Another Coltranean example of tonal purification may be found in his song, Spiritual. The form is ABA, with the A section in a minor key and the B section in a major key, albeit one with a dominant seventh blue note.
Hans-Heinrich Eggebrecht reconstructs Bach’s putative intentions as an expression of Lutheran thought, imagining Bach to be saying, “I am identified with the tonic and it is my desire to reach it….Like you I am human. I am in need of salvation; I am certain in the hope of salvation, and have been saved by grace.” The identifcation of the keynote, or tonic, with the divine is a common feature of European, East Indian, and Coltane’s Afro-American classical music. Oswald Spengler stated that “the polarity of…(original sin) and Grace…is the final meaning…of music from Bach to Beethoven.” This music is cadential; the dominant chord represents original sin and the tonic chord represents a state of grace.
Jazz saxophonist Coleman Hawkins comments on jazz musicians: “If they think they are doing something new, they ought to do what I do every day – spend at least two hours every day listening to Johann Sebastian Bach and, man, it’s all there. If they want to improvise around a theme, which is the essence of jazz, they should learn from the master. He never wastes a note, and he knows where every note is going and when to bring it back. Some of these cats go way out and forget where they began or what they started to do. Bach will clear it up for them.”
For Ernst Oster, the title of Heinrich Schenker’s book, Der Tonwille, expresses the thought that “tones have a ‘will’ of their own” (FC, 35). Schenker illustrates this will by perceiving tones as analogous to creatures: “We should get accustomed to seeing tones as creatures. We should learn to assume in them biological urges as they characterize living beings” (6-7). The consequent tonal autonomy is the result of the fact that “every tone is the bearer of its generations and…contains within itself its own major triad, 1:5:3.” (29). This fact leads to what Schenker describes as an “egotism of the tones, each of which, as a root tone, [insists] on its right to its own perfect fifth and major third; in other words, its right to procreate its own descendant generations. On the other hand, the common interest of the community that was to arise from the mutual relations of these tones demanded sacrifices, especially with regard to the descendant generations. Thus the basic C could not possibly coexist in the same system with the major third C-sharp, which was postulated by A in its quality as a root tone. The major third of E, G-sharp, came into conflict with the second root tone, G, etc. (30-31).
Schenker refers to this process of tonal egotism as “tonicalization” (256). “Each scale-step manifests an irresistible urge to attain the value of the tonic for itself as that of the strongest (scale-step…I call this process tonicalization” (256). He continues his creaturely analogy of this problematic process, which threatens the tonal system, by defining “the sacrifices which each tone had to make if a community of tones was to be established usefully and [continue] stably…the content of the more remote fifth in rising order, beginning with the second, was tempered and adjusted to the content of the tonic and its dominant and subdominant fifths” (40). Thus, F-sharp yields to F, C-sharp to C, G-sharp to G, and D-sharp to D. The sacrificial relation of tones within “a system of ideally moving forces” offers unique insights into the “spiritual universe” to which it is analogous (xxv).
In keeping with Schenker’s process of tonicization, composer Richard Wagner represents the fundamental tone as conceiving “‘chief-tones’” which “‘are, in a sense, the adolescent members of the family, who yearn to leave its wonted surrounding for an unhindered independence’” (from Jones, 44). This representation of the derivative tones of the fundamental is consistent with Wagner’s use of the Tristan chord, and it recalls Forte’s description of the tonicization process, which is developed in his interpretation of “the meaning of the cadence”, whereby the seventh tone of the dominant chord is represented “as a corrective, depriving V (the dominant) of its independence and pointing it back in the direction of its origin” (23). In Indian raga tones subordinate to the fundamental are never permitted to declare their independance, as they are always subject to the omnipresent drone.
African Feeling and Gypsy Soul
According to Frantz Fanon “Emotion is Negro as reason is Greek.” (Black Skin, White Masks, 106) Trumpeter Charles Moore states that ‘Don Ellis’ “review of The John Coltrane Quartet Plays shows the white’s utter contempt for black creativity….The white man always has to relate the black’s music to the same old tired European standards & modes. I won’t even bother to try to explain the music of the black to Ellis because he quite obviously cannot even understand the fundamental feelings from which this music was created. The white even in his most infinitesimal sexually-fantasized masochistic stages obviously cannot understand & feel pain and suffering…The white’s mind still, even in ’66, seeks to castrate the black’s music and write it off in the form of European-based technical criticism and control – white control…The feeling of this music is more important to me than the technical matters; a feeling that you, Mr. Ellis, have insulted, thereby declaring yourself as another of my many white enemies. And for that, along with your ideals and artifacts from ancient history, you must die.'” (Ratliff, 164) By incorporating black feeling into my multicultural genre I hope to show myself a musical friend of Mr. Moore, and to honor the contribution, as he has defined it, of his race; I also would like to think that my emotional incorporation would result in his permitting me to live, were he still alive.
Moore says of Coltrane: “What he was hearing soundwise was so inclusive that he could have included a goat on stage.” (156) Coltrane: “I myself don’t recognize the word ‘jazz.’ I mean we are sold under this name, but to me, the word doesn’t exist. I just feel that I play John Coltrane….To me, it’s the music of individual expression.'” (C on C, 266) “The term ‘classical music’, in my opinion, means the music of a country that’s played by the composers and musicians of the country, more or less, as opposed to the music that people dance or sing by, the popular music. If you would ask me what we are playing, I feel it is the music of the individual contributor. And if you want to name it anything, you can name it classical music.” (Ratliff, 62)
Amiri Baraka: “Coltrane’s salvation will only come as a murderer, an anarchist, whose anarchy seems so radical because references to the ‘old music’ still remain.” “[Coltrane] showed us how to murder the popular song. To do away with weak Western forms. He is a beautiful philosopher.” Contrary to Baraka’s view, the Western form of the cadence accords with the aesthetic laws of nature, which Coltrane desired to emulate: “I want to produce beautiful music…in communion with the natural laws.” George Russell’s jazz treatise intends to liberate the melodic inhibitions of its readers, whereas Coltrane seeks to purify his melodies.
How does Coltrane’s self-described classical music use notes as analogous to persons? John Coltrane in 1961: “I know that I want to produce beautiful music, music that does things to people that they need. Music that will uplift, and make them happy – those are the qualities that I’d like to produce. Some people say ‘your music sounds angry,’ or ‘tortured,’ or ‘spiritual,’ or ‘overpowering’ or something; you get all kinds of things, you know. Some say they feel elated, and so you never know where it’s going to go. All a musician can do is to get closer to the sources of nature, and so feel that he is in communion with the natural laws. Then he can feel that he is interpreting them to the best of his ability, and can convey that to others.” (C on C, 118) My arrangements would bring listeners into communion with the Creator of the natural laws by ending minor key pieces on a major chord to represent the ultimate triumph of life and light.
In 1965 Coltrane confessed: “”Perhaps my main fault at the moment is that I have a natural feeling for the minor. I’d like to do more things in the major.'” (Kahn, 116) Coltrane is repeating his desire to be in communion with natural laws, but here states the desire in more concrete terms of moving from minor to major tonality. Consistent with Coltrane’s characterization of the minor as a “main fault”, he wrote and recorded several songs of Christian spirituality in a major key in 1965, including Welcome, Amen, The Father the Son and the Holy Ghost, After the Rain, and Dear Lord. His ambivalence about settling on the root note of these songs suggests that he did not feel welcome in the presence of the Christian Trinity. Therefore, these songs could be regarded as anti-ragas, as ragas are always anchored by the drone of the key note. The bulk of his final work is in a free jazz mode, liberated from all harmonic and melodic constraints. My arrangements eliminate the ambivalence and feel right at home with the keynote.
The adjective blue has been associated with despondency and sadness since the 16th century. The noun the blues has been with us since 1741. The blues is a shortening of blue devils, demons popularly thought to cause depression and sadness. The notion of blue devils has been around since 1616. The blue note of the minor third represents a spirit of pain, in contrast to the victorious and joyful spirit of the major third. The blue note of the flatted fifth represents a prodigal child in a discordant relation to the parental fundamental tone, in contrast to the perfect fifth. The blue note of the flat seventh represents an enemy parent as this note with the fundamental causes a tense discord. These representations are consistent with the tradition of the raga, which assigns to notes a dramatic persona.
Ennosuke Saito: “What’s the very first thing that you want to express to people?” Coltrane: “I would say love, first, and to strive, second. Although they go together in some kind of way….The love that holds the universe together.” (Tokyo, 1966, C on C, 267) Tsujimoto: Why did you decide to be a vegetarian? Coltrane: “It’s more of a spiritual reason than any other reason with me, because I find that it causes me to be a much calmer person….And I have less trouble, you know, being in command of my passions and emotions and so forth.” (C on C, 280)
Ratliff states that Coltrane talked about getting away from his obsession with chords in “philosophical-religious terms. Coltrane was not explicitly saying that the best music comes from a higher power – perhaps in 1961 this would have sounded grandiose – but that is the subtext of his comments. He was aware that fixating on chords and the ‘Giant Steps’ changes was a matter of habit, the patterns of his conscious mind, the condition of not seeing the forest for the trees. Whether he felt that the catalyst would the subconscious or God, he wanted to be led to something new.” (65) From Coltrane’s African classical music I get the ‘pentecostal’ approach of being open to God leading one in the moment.
This spiritual spontaneity is seemingly absent from contemporary European classical music. Classical pianist Glenn Gould mentions the “autocratic principle” of the classical sonata and “the prescription of what a symphony was”, “that the first theme ought to be upright and powerful, and brisk, and delineated clearly, and the second theme should be less forceful and more lyrical, more relaxed more tranquillo and more midnight-coloured and so on”. (Well-Tempered Listener, 282) “The notion of the sonata and  the symphony is precisely that, really, if you put it in theological terms, that the composer had such ultimate power over the material and over all the decisions that went into the material (and his characters as represented by the material if you see voices as characters in that sense), as a transformation of vocal impulse into characterization; that he could (if he chose) by textural alterations, by changes of pace, by all of the things of which a sonata or a symphony could be disrupted, and the events, the whole course of events changed, he could, in a sense, demythologize his characters; he could actually make one feel a sense of metamorphosis, a sense of implicit plot context in relation to what he was doing. So there was a very aggressive attitude abroad in the world of the symphony and the sonata basically and, if you think about it, the sonata and symphony writers who are heroes are not unlike generals. They’re not unlike the Napoleon figures.” (288-9)
Coltrane’s pentecostal desire to be led by the Spirit in his melodies may constitute a corrective to what Gould refers to as the Napoleonic tendencies of symphonic composers. If the performance of music in sonata form is to be truly prayerful it must allow for freedom and spontaneity. T.S Eliot recognized that “prayer is more / Than an order of words, the conscious occupation / Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.” (Four Quartets, Little Gidding, I) So musical prayers are more than an order of tones, the sound of the instrument playing. John Milton aspired to pen a work “not to be raised from the heat of youth or the vapours of wine, like that which flows at waste from the pen of some vulgar amorist or the trencher fury of a rhyming parasite, but by devout prayer to the eternal Spirit, who can enrich with all utterance and knowledge, and sends out his seraphim with the hallowed fire of his altar to touch and purify the lips of whom he pleases.” (The Reason of Church Government urged against Prelacy) This is the prophetic announcement of Paradise Lost. Northrop Frye employs a musical analogy when calling the concluding couplet to the introduction to Milton’s Ode On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity, “join thy voice unto the angel quire, From out his secret altar touched with hallowed fire,” Milton’s key. This couplet could also be called Coltrane’s key, as Coltrane also identified with the call of Isaiah in Is. 6.
St. Augustine was an African whose participation with ecclesiastical music stresses feeling: “I wept at the beauty of your hymns and canticles, and was powerfully moved at the sweet sound of your Church’s singing. These sounds flowed into my ears, and the truth streamed into my heart, so that my feeling of devotion overflowed, and the tears ran from my eyes, and I was happy with them” (Confessions, Book IX, 6). A year before his final concert Coltrane performed at a benefit concert to raise money to build a playground on the site of a former convent. Zane Massey recalled: “It was so intense. I was very young, but I was very touched by that music. It was a very long performance – Trane played for over an hour. They played for so long that there were puddles of sweat. Where they were standing – John, Jimmy, Elvin – there was literally water there on the floor. I remember at one point after he played for maybe a half-hour, he went in his pocket and he read the prayer, the whole A Love Supreme prayer. He actually read it – ‘Thank you God,’ you know – while the band was playing. Then everybody was chanting [sings], ‘a love supreme, a love supreme’ while he was reading the prayer. The band was playing, and he was reading the prayer. And I remember in the back of the room it was all musicians and they were chanting his name, ‘John, John, John.’ Rahsaan [Roland Kirk] was actually crying, and I couldn’t understand. I was in shock, because I hadn’t ever seen anything like that before.” (191)
Moving from the natural human spirit to the divine Spirit, from cupidity to charity, expressed in the transition from the minor to the major third. Steiner, “when the minor third is played, one feels pain in the soul, the predominance of the sentient body, but when the major third resounds, it announces the victory of the soul.”
The music of Django Reinhardt is like that of Coltrane in that it transcends the genre of jazz. Django’s musical vision is similar to that of Coltrane, as he uses blue notes to designate his people, and he raises them beyond the blues with his quasi-classical peices, such as Anouman, Manoir de mes Reves, Nuages, and the Overture to his Mass.
Pauline Oliveros: “Classical music as taught in American establishment institutions and conservatories regards improvisation as a kind of craft, subordinate to the more prestigious art of composition. It’s well known that Mozart as well as Beethoven improvised on their tours. Improvisation as a lost art was excluded from the curriculum and all but disappeared in America except for church organists and occasional cadenzas in concertos. The denial of the validity of improvisation has a racist tinge and origin. In America in the first half of this century improvisation grew mostly from jazz and blues – heart music of Americans of African descent – the disenfranchised. After 1950 improvisation appears in white avant-garde music through the influence of marginalized indeterminate or aleatoric procedures, exposure to jazz and blues and to recordings and live imports of non-Western music – also disenfranchised music.…The improvising musician has to let go of each moment and also simultaneously understand the implications of any moment of the music in progress as it emerges into being. In historical improvisation the course is charted or set by the conventions and codifications of the style – the classicism of the music.” (Sound Unbound, Quantum Improvisation, 121)
The Asian element corresponds to the unifying beginning and ending, the European element corresponds to the structural exposition, which is relatively controlling, and the African element corresponds to the development section, which is relatively inclusive and egalitarian. A typical piece begins with the keynote, the three note chord of the keynote, the seven note scale in the exposition, the twelve notes of the chromatic scale, corresponding to the ‘all inclusive’ African aesthetic and its purification followed by a return to the exposition of the scale and finally the final chord or keynote. In a mystical sense the final chord or keynote contains all the previous elements of the piece.
As the European cadence moves from the dominant to the tonic chord, as a harmonic ritual purging negative thoughts, so the ‘African’ blue notes of negative emotions are purged in a Coltranean ‘pentecostal’ improvisation of purification towards the consonance of the harmonic tones of the chord of nature. Moore threatens to kill Ellis for attempting to castrate the black’s music and suggests the inclusion of a symbolic goat. The symbolism suggests the ritual of expiation – in the case of Moore, the expiation of violent (you must die) and impure (goat) emotions to give birth to higher emotions of purity (sheep), joy, and elation.
The Asian prelude is a meditation of the consciousness that all is one. The monotonal one expands to a three-note chord and its harmonic opposite in the form of a Faustian dominant chord in the Western consciousness. The African consciousness that everything is everything, it’s all good, is manifest in the chromatic scale, with all the colors of the spectrum. The discords and blue notes of this consciousness are purified, in accordance with Coltrane’s classical agenda, and resolved in the form of the recapitulation, which is itself resolved in the return to the one, in the form of a harmonic chord, rather than the monotone of the beginning of the prelude.
Indian raga is non-confrontational in the sense that an enemy note is avoided. The development section of a Western classical sonata confronts what would be called in a raga enemy notes. The all-inclusive African aesthetic is suggested in guitarist Lenny Breau’s description of Coltrane’s modal music: “To get into the John Coltrane thing you have to learn…to play the C scale voiced in fourths…It sounds right, because it’s musically correct, so all you got to know is that and then you can’t play a wrong note.” In George Russell’s treatise: “you are free to do anything your taste may dictate, for you can resolve the most ‘far out’ melody since you always know where home is (the parent member scale within the parent Lydian Chromatic Scale).” (27) The harmonic norm of the triad leads me to temper the seeming all-inclusive African aesthetic with Coltrane’s desire to express major tonality. These differences need to expanded upon.
The drone never departs from Indian classical music. Milton provides a rational for the confrontational nature of symphonic form in the development section: “I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue, unexercised and unbreathed, that never sallies out and sees her adversary but slinks out of the race, where that immortal garland is to be run for, not without dust and heat. Assuredly we bring not innocence into the world, we bring impurity much rather; that which purifies us is trial, and trial is by what is contrary.” (Aereopagitica) The enemy note is the flatted fifth, which forms the devil’s interval in relation to the fundamental keynote.
George Russell’s treatise embraces the flatted fifth, however Coltrane corrects this admission, in my view, when recognizing “the need to keep purifying these feelings and sounds so that we can really see what we’ve discovered in its pure state. So that we can see more and more clearly what we are.” What we are is human beings made in the divine image, manifest in music resolving from the discord of original sin to the concord of the perfect chord of nature. It may be siginificant that Russell’s treatise treats jazz music whereas Coltrane regarded himself as a classical musician. The willingness to embrace the natural form of music, manifest in the triad, seems a characteristic of classical music theorists, even Schoenberg, I believe.
Global Guitar Motivation
T.S. Eliot wrote a series of poems called Four Quartets in part to reconcile Tory and Whig factions in England after the second world war. In this work he relates words and music: “Words move, music moves / Only in time; but that which is only living / Can only die. Words, after speech, reach / Into the silence. / Only by the form, the pattern, / Can words or music reach / The stillness.”
Eliot wrote: “Our concern was speech, and speech impelled us / To purify the dialect of the tribe / And urge the mind to aftersight and foresight.” Applying Eliot’s poetic and linguistic concern to the discipline of music, the aftersight of North American guitar music may perceive two lines. The foresight perceives Breau as the figure who healed the breach between the black and white aesthetics of the contrasting lines. The agent of purification is the Holy Spirit, the common source of creativity in the sublime expressions of both lines. As Metheny put it, Breau ‘upped the ante’ of what a guitarist could achieve. In a 2010 interview Metheny described music as “this bank”; “music exists with a currency that is so robust.” He seems to favor monetary metaphors when describing music. To adapt Eliot’s spiritually charged word, Breau sought to purify the tonal language of the tribe of North American guitarists. I don’t believe that he succeeded. I am not concerned to play as well as any of these guitarists, and frankly I probably never will, but I am concerned to play in the context of a theory, philosophy, or theology of music that promotes a spiritual vision of integration and integrity. I may succeed in my vision where other far superior musicians failed in theirs.
Eliot: “Prayer is more / Than an order of words, the conscious occupation / Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying. / And what the dead had no speech for, when living, / They can tell you, being dead: the communication / Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living.” “They vanish, / The faces and places, with the self…All touched by a common genius, / United in the strife which divided them…We cannot revive old factions / We cannot restore old policies / Or follow an antique drum. / These men, and those who opposed them / And those whom they opposed / Accept the constitution of silence / And are folded in a single party. Whatever we inherit from the fortunate / We have taken from the defeated / What they had to leave us—a symbol: / A symbol perfected in death. / And all shall be well and / All manner of thing shall be well / By the purification of the motive / In the ground of our beseeching.”
Each piece is a tonal ritual of atonement and purification; this is what qualifies the genre as classical, rather than popular. The raga introduction and coda emit the perfect chord. The exposition and recapitulation are a harmonic purification from harmonic discord to concord. The development is a form of melodic and rhythmic purification from blues to bliss, from rhythmic trough to crest. The musician with a wooden instrument is analogous to Jesus on the cross, fulfilling the Atonement ritual of expiation.
The etymology of tone: “from Greek tonos: rope, cord, tension, stretching, exertion of force:. (Levarie and Levy, Tone: A Study in Musical Acoustics, vi). Tone embodies a tension of opposite forces. Niceta of Remesiana, referring to the music of David subduing the evil spirit of Saul, writes that “the image of Christ’s cross was mystically exhibited in the wood and stretched strings of the instrument, and thereby it was the very Passion that was hymned and that overcame the spirit of the demon” (20). Compare with George Herbert’s lines: “His cross taught all things wooden to resound his name Who bore the same. His sinews taught all strings what key Is best to celebrate this most uplifting day. (Virtue, 6-8)
The one of the word atonement alluding to both the One parental deity and the one tonal center. Harmonic attunement to the one tonic chord through a sacrifice of the dominant seventh, or blues, chord as a manifestion of the purifiying of the western and Faustian striving for secret and potentially destructive knowledge, or abuse of divine and esoteric knowledge, as an impediment to spiritual atonement. Melodic atunement to the one tonal center through a sacrifice of the seventh, or blue, note as a manifestation of the purifying of the symbolically ‘African’ striving for the release of negative and destructive emotions. This is all highly speculative. Play on the words one and tone in atonement. Dissolution of the false and separate self.
In The Last Gig of Lenny Breau my intuition that Breau played guitar like Jesus on the cross was correct. At a guitar clinic Breau stated: “The music has to own you to the point where it’s got you by the balls. And you say, ‘man I have to play; I have to play, because it’s got me. I have to play. It’s like John Coltrane used to play so much that when he’d come off the bandstand sometimes his lips were bleeding and he’d go into the dressing room and still practice. Practice, practice, practice. He’d come down [and] there’d be blood running down. Now that’s serious. That cat is devoted, you know, to playing music. Right? So, like, there ain’t a whole lot of people like that, but I’m saying if you’ve got very high ideals and you want to play like really heavy stuff, and you’ve got music you want to play in twenty years from now, you’re going to have to put in the time, and you may have to go through hard times doing it.”
Tsujimoto to Coltrane: “In 1963 Japanese tenor saxophonist Hideko Mastsumoto was invited to the Newport Jazz Festival. We had a recent interview with him and he told us that whenever you have time you always exercise and exercise and exercise [practice, practice, practice].” (Tokyo, 1966, C on C, 276) Breau also repeats the word practice three times; he probably was alluding to this interview. In the same interview Coltrane states: “I would like to be a saint. [John laughs, then Alice laughs.]” (1966, Tokyo, C on C, 270) Coltrane’s cousin Mary Alexander: “‘I just want people to know that John was a normal person, he was a man, you know, and not God like some people might think.’” (Kahn, 223) “‘John was a normal child, fun and a practical joker.'” (Kahn, 224) Coltrane was not God, but I think Breau modeled Coltrane’s idea of musician as saint in his own way. My musical quest has brought me to this notion. I want to continue Breau’s legacy of “very high ideals” and Coltrane’s legacy of aspiring to be a musical “saint.”
From an article: “The idea of the word “saints” is a group of people set apart for the Lord and His kingdom. There are three references referring to godly character of saints: “that you receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints …” (Romans 16:2). “For the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12). “But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints” (Ephesians 5:3).” “Therefore, scripturally speaking, the “saints” are the body of Christ, Christians, the church. All Christians are considered saints. All Christian are saints—and at the same time are called to be saints. First Corinthians 1:2 states it clearly: “To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy…” The words “sanctified” and “holy” come from the same Greek root as the word that is commonly translated “saints.” Christians are saints by virtue of their connection with Jesus Christ. Christians are called to be saints, to increasingly allow their daily life to more closely match their position in Christ. This is the biblical description and calling of the saints.”
Cotrane wanted to be a preacher on his horn and a saint. I prefer the term mystic, for preachers have a different function. The Saint John Coltrane African Orthodox Church wishes to “paint the globe with Coltrane Consciousness;” with my genre I wish to paint the world with Christ consciousness.
Close to GodAndreas Werckmeister: “As God makes a good harmony and concord with those closest to him – we mean the holy angels and blessed Christ – so the unison makes a harmony with its own nearest neighbors, the octave, fifth, etc. And just as the great God makes no harmony with those who depart from him and his holy Word – indeed, if they stray too far and too long, they can scarcely be accepted again, but are cast out – , so it is the case that those dissonances which depart too far from the unison can sometimes hardly be resolved or tolerated without upsetting the harmony.” James 8:8a “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” Psalm 73:28 “But for me it is good to be near God.”
In the song Rally Round reggae singer David Hinds sings the provocative line, “closer to God we Africans.” The line is sung predominantly over a minor third. Mystical-minded musicians generally associate the deity, or God the Father in Christian Trinitarian thought, with the keynote. Proximity to the creator is expressed musically by a tone, or tones, close to the fundamental in the harmonic series. The first three different tones in the harmonic series are the three tones of a major chord. A minor third is a distant relation to the fundamental tone. From this harmonic perspective Hinds’ use of the minor third to convey the spiritual proximity of Africans to the deity could be interpreted as an error or an irony. The following line, “closer to God we can,” is sung over the intervals b3, b3, b3, b3, 4, 5. The word can is sung over the fifth interval, the closest from the fundamental, apart from octaves.
Hinds’ song, Blessed is the Man, ends with the refrain, “Can you feel it [the Spirit of God]?” The corresponding intervals are 2, b3, 2, 1. The minor third, sung over the word “you”, traditionally implies a painful deficiency and a yearning for the joyful triumph of the major third.
John Coltrane in 1961: “I know that I want to produce beautiful music, music that does things to people that they need. Music that will uplift, and make them happy – those are the qualities that I’d like to produce. Some people say ‘your music sounds angry,’ or ‘tortured,’ or ‘spiritual,’ or ‘overpowering’ or something; you get all kinds of things, you know. Some say they feel elated, and so you never know where it’s going to go. All a musician can do is to get closer to the sources of nature, and so feel that he is in communion with the natural laws. Then he can feel that he is interpreting them to the best of his ability, and can convey that to others.” (C on C, 118)
Lenny Breau in 1981: “To the musician that’s really serious it’s the fastest way to God. When I’m playing my music, when I’m doing stuff like
G, A, C, Eb, F, G, B, C, F A, C, A, G, F, Eb, C, A [F7#4; lydian scale].
I hear that and it inspires me. It makes me feel close to God. Like I don’t have to go to church and kneel down and say, ‘praise the Lord,’ because this is my way of praising.”
Breau says the series of notes alluded to above makes him “feel close to God.” As God the Father is analogous to the fundamental tone, it is ironic that Breau play such distant harmonics as the flat seventh and sharp fourth. His words say one thing, but the tones, as is often the case, betray the inner truth – he was high on drugs and far from God.
Heinrich Schenker indicates a hierarchy among the procession of tones when stating that, because the fifth precedes the third in the overtone series, it is “more potent than the third. The fifth enjoys among the overtones, the right of primogeniture, so to speak.” The tonal primogeniture of the fifth is analogous to the theological conception of Christ as the first-born in the resurrection.
Serious play is an oxymoron, which characterizes my aspiration. Serious in the intent to communicate with the Creator, and playful as in the approach of a child to a divine parent. “I was beside God, I was his delight day by day, playing before him every moment.“
Pablo Picasso: “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” Al Einstein: “The pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives.” “If you can’t explain it simply you don’t understand it well enough.” “Things should be made as simple as possible, but not any simpler.” “True art is characterized by an irresistible urge in the creative artist.” “Once we accept our limits we go beyond them.” “Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.” “If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.” “When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than any talent for abstract, positive thinking.” “You can never solve a problem on the level on which it was created.” “We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive.” Al Einstein
 Grudem, 255.
 Ibid., 257.
 Quoted in Hayburn, 541.
 Joseph Ratzinger, God and the World, trans. Henry Taylor (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000), 268.
 Godwin, Harmonies, 107.
 Schenker, Masterwork II, 116.
 Schenker, Masterwork I, 104.
 Levarie and Levy, Morphology, 71.
 Christensen, 218.
 Rudhyar, 98.