“Universal Consciousness” by Alice Coltrane
“Even with all the global horrors that have always existed that we didn’t necessarily reflect upon as much as we do now, the current disorder of the US is overwhelming for a lot of people, and even outside of the country. In some ways, the surface confusion of the news doesn’t even reflect how crazy it is, more kind of makes it eerily digestible, like eating the tiniest shards of sharp metal everyday. I don’t really know what to say about it, but I’ve noticed that I don’t actually listen to music as much as I used to, especially in the car, where I just listen to news, which is sad but maybe just where I’m at. Also I think sometimes I need quiet periods to escape the noise.
But I do want to do my part to spread the word of music that can transform our mindset a bit, because ultimately I am a hopeful person, and I believe that the only way out of this is to be really conscious and active as a citizen, and to not sit back and accept what garbage is put before us. And being happy and feeling love is necessary for that motivation. My only reservation in mentioning what I listen to here is that a lot of people already are probably listening to this and don’t need me to mention it, but what has really been helping me has been Alice Coltrane’s “Universal Consciousness”. In particular, there is the track “Oh Allah.” Sometimes on a track you are drawn to one aspect of it that really hits you, it’s like the heart of the piece, but in this recording, there are two really different types of these crucial ‘hearts’–the four violins play in unison-but-not-really, where they all move and slide and trill in the same direction with the same general goals, but each slightly unique and different from each other, to beautiful effect. I’m actually not even sure how this was arranged (it might even be a delay used? I think Ornette Coleman was involved), but it’s one of the most exciting uses of some concept of unison melody ever. And the second “heart” is Coltrane’s organ—when it comes in at 0:49 it floods the scene with a warm melody outlining two repeating modal (?) chords, and the strings join in with their trill-ing melodic cascades, and then both hearts go on their extended ecstatic journey.
It’s never easy to explain music that moves us the most. The beauty is mysterious and feels beyond, and when I hear this music, though I’m not a person with any kind of religion, I feel the warmth of some kind of overwhelming light, that feels way beyond myself, and things in the world feel a bit easier to process. For me, this is how art can contribute to our well-being. In the liner notes for this track, Coltrane writes, among other things, ‘”Oh Allah” is a prayer for peace, unity, and concord.'”