September 19, 2015

Something Wonderful: The Hidden Psalm in "A Love Supreme"

"The final movement on John Coltrane’s 1965 album A Love Supreme is a “musical narration” of a devotional poem that Coltrane included in the album’s liner notes — he put the handwritten poem on a music stand and “played” it as if it were music.

“Coltrane’s hushed delivery sounds deliberately speechlike,” write Ashley Kahn in his 2003 history of the album. “He hangs on to the ends of phrases, repeats them as if for emphasis. He is in fact ‘reading’ through his horn.”
"The hidden psalm was marked by New York musicians for decades before Rutgers University musicologist Lewis Porter presented a formal analysis to the American Musicological Society in 1980. “You will find that he plays right to the final ‘Amen’ and then finishes,” he writes in his 1997 biography of the saxophonist. “There are no extra notes up to that point. You will have to make a few adjustments in the poem, however: Near the beginning where it reads, ‘Help us resolve our fears and weaknesses,’ he skips the next line, goes on to ‘In you all things are possible,’ then plays ‘Thank you God’ … towards the end he leaves out ‘I have seen God.'”
“I think music can make the world better and, if I’m qualified, I want to do it,” Coltrane had said. “I’d like to point out to people the divine in a musical language that transcends words. I want to speak to their souls.”

Rare: Coltrane performs "A Love Supreme" live.

Posted by gerardvanderleun at September 19, 2015 11:56 PM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

I was listening to Ole' Coltrane a few days ago. The mind. It boggles at his artistry.

Posted by: Joan of Argghh! at September 20, 2015 4:33 AM

Truly wonderful.

Thanks, and I hope you have a blessed day.

Posted by: Julie at September 20, 2015 7:12 AM

Awesome and inspiring.

Posted by: JW at September 20, 2015 9:41 AM

I never did like jazz. That did nothing to change my mind.

Love your site Gerard, many wonderful insights. Thank you for all the effort you put into it.

Posted by: Arty at September 25, 2015 4:42 PM