Attaining unity

Self-reference in the music of John Coltrane

Authors

  • Marc Medwin American University

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/jazz.v2i2.119

Keywords:

John Coltrane, Modernism, Self-reference, Jazz

Abstract

John Coltrane’s final works have been ignored and reviled, but there have been only a few enthusiasts seeking to find order in the challenging compositions Coltrane recorded between June of 1965 and April of 1967. In the present study, I demonstrate that Coltrane’s life-long interest in unity gave rise to the final works, which he acknowledged publicly to be “music of the individual contributor” and labeled “Classical music.” I show that, through musical self-reference and self-quotation, Coltrane recontextualized his entire oeuvre during his final two years, bringing his musical biography to bear on a compositional aesthetic outside of that associated with jazz. Furthermore, by giving many of his pieces geographical and “universal” titles, he renders his art a mirror in which the journey from racial and sociopolitical struggle to affirmation is reflected.

Author Biography

Marc Medwin, American University

Performing Arts Department/Assistant Professor

References

Cole, Bill (1976) John Coltrane. New York: Schirmer Books.

Coltrane, John (1992) Interview with Carl-Erik Lindgren from Miles Davis: In Stockholm 1960 Complete. Dragon Records, DRCD 228.

——(2002) Liner notes to A Love Supreme. Impulse! 314 589 945-2.

——(1958) Interview with August Blume. http://www.slought.org/content/11161/

Jost, Ekkehard (1974) Free Jazz. Graz, Austria: Universal Edition, reprinted by Da Capo Press, 1981.

Messiaen, Olivier (1988) Liner notes to Trois Petites Liturgies de la presence divine. Erato, ECD71594.

Monson, Ingrid (2007) Freedom Sounds: Civil Rights Call Out to Jazz and Africa. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Porter, Lewis (1998) John Coltrane: His Life and Music. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Simkins, Cuthbert Ormond (1975) Coltrane: A Biography. New York: Herndon House, reprinted by Black Classics Press, 1989.

Thomas, Lorenzo (1995) ‘Ascension: Music and the Black Arts Movement’. In Jazz Among the Discourses, ed. Krin Gabbard, 256–74. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Weil, Simon (2004) ‘Circling Om: An Exploration of John Coltrane’s Later Works’. http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=14286

Published

2009-05-31

How to Cite

Medwin, M. (2009). Attaining unity: Self-reference in the music of John Coltrane. Jazz Research Journal, 2(2), 119–131. https://doi.org/10.1558/jazz.v2i2.119

Issue

Section

Articles