About John Coltrane Essay Research Paper James — страница 2

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search of what he termed "Selflessness," Trane himself became the sun and the node, the zero point of the universe, and all things (incarnated by a variety of rhythmic/percussional accompaniments) swirled in dynamic flux around him. He knew the sense in which music could conceive the very possibility of the future and then furnished that future in joyous and terrified anticipation, thus preparing all of us (technically as musicians, spiritually as kinsmen) to inhabit it. For in the last works of Coltrane, as in the late quartets of Beethoven, we witness genius challenging hitherto unglimpsed realms of imagination and expression and, in the same effort, somehow conquering them. We witness, in short, the mystery of the Orphic dismemberment and restitution: the

destructive-creative threat to and recovery of Expression itself. The effort of this essay is to touch upon the salient and haunting aspects of Coltrane’s last phase. Only one dimension of Trane’s final achievement is strictly musical: the stylistic, structural development which is carried by the actual notes. Equally important, however, are the cultural, aesthetic, and spiritual ideas which the music evokes: the links to contemporary Afro-American revolts, to the modern "black aesthetic," to the blues root of jazz impulses. At every stage of this exploration we will discern a lineament of Orpheus who, above all for us, represents mastery of life through the power to create harmony amid the stillness of primordial silence or the ferocity of discord. For Orpheus, the

savage beasts and Furies stand mute and listen. Yet a dark future awaits the vates, a violent destiny concealed (though perhaps also provoked) by the lyre’s sound. The frenzied Maenads tear him to pieces, severing head from body. The voice of Orpheus seems to offend life in some hidden and primal way. Whatever that sin may be, expression, as signal of an emergent consciousness, is complicit in it. The mad jealousy of nature (the uncontrollable women) spends itself against a competing voice of fury, the Orphic hunger to order existence. Trane partook of this Orphic fury, a metaphysical revolt without metaphysical surrender, a dialectic of violence in which the very being of man is put on trial. For if the Orphic voice is a response to Nature’s chaos, it is also an appeal to

man’s own inner being, to the "perfection" and "deep peace" Trane sought for us all. It invokes a reordering of life by an alteration of consciousness; it summons apocalypse in its original sense of revelation by penetrating the moment’s perplexities to the heart of awareness. Fury and Apocalypse: these are the obsessions of the Afro-American’s Orphic imagination, the vital and dangerous necessities of its existence. For the modern black art of which Trane was a prime mover, fury envisions apocalypse as the artist engages Euro-American culture in an agonistic relationship. This apocalypse is something more than the destruction conceived by the oppressed as retribution against their enemies. Implied in it is a nearly total rejection of Western history and

civilization. The revolt of the Afro-American artist against specific literary or social conventions is, at bottom, a rebellion against authority and the memory of imposed systems. As trumpeter Clifford Thornton (alumnus of the fabulous Sun Ra cabal) declared, true revolution of consciousness begins by a radical "un-learning" of existent modes. It is not an improvement or modification of available techniques that the black artist requests; rather, his call is for an entirely new grammar, a "post-Western form" (Baraka et al.). Divorced from the enveloping society, he sets out on a fresh journey into the uncharted spaces of the self. He courts the dismembering anger of the herd by undertaking the liberating psychic descent. Modern black culture wants to remake,

to reconceive, that fundamental activity of mind we call art. It has come to realize, however, that all real transformations in the form of expression, all fruitful adventures in that domain, can only take place within a transformation of the idea of expression itself. Thus, while the new "black aesthetic" turns inside-out all the pieties of life and art, speaking outlandishly in no language we ordinarily hear, it still speaks for the life and increase presumably afforded by a new syntax of desire. That it has dared to do so in such assertive tones is certainly attributable to the startling discoveries of contemporary jazz musicians. The sounds of John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Sonny Rollins, Sun Ra, Cecil Taylor, Albert Ayler, Archie Shepp, Pharaoh Sanders, and their