Sample from the Fall 2005 issue of Integral Yoga Magazine
An Interview with Alice Coltrane
Alice Coltrane (Swami Turiyasangitananda) is the widow of jazz legend John Coltrane. After her husband’s passing she continued their shared exploration of Eastern music and spirituality. In 1970 she recorded Journey in Satchidananda and explained: “Direct inspiration for Journey in Satchidananda comes from my meeting and association with someone who is near and dear to me. I am speaking of my own beloved spiritual preceptor, Swami Satchidananda. Swamiji is the first example I have seen in recent years of Universal Love or God in action. He expresses an impersonal love, which encompasses thousands of people. Anyone listening to this selection should try to envision himself floating on an ocean of Satchidanandaji’s love, which is literally carrying countless devotees across the vicissitudes and stormy blasts of life to the other shore…”
Integral Yoga Magazine: After you married, it seemed that you became less involved in music and that the spotlight was on your husband, John Coltrane.
Swami Turiyasangitananda: I didn’t really care for the limelight. I felt I had accomplished a great deal on my own by the time I met John. When I met John, I was more interested in knowing what married life would be like; I wanted to experience that. It was very easy. I didn’t walk in the shadow. It was my preference to be home with the children. I only performed again during the last year of his life when one of his band members had to leave and John asked me to take that position and that was fine.
IYM: After that–and six albums later–you withdrew from the commercial music industry.
ST: God’s work was what I felt was the greater work. At our center, we do a lot of bhajans and songs for God. So, I’m still surrounded with the music. I feel it’s a beautiful continuation in my life to have this spiritual path and my family–I feel this is where I am supposed to be. I don’t feel deprived in not completing my artistic endeavors. I’m sure I could have developed more. But, I felt that John took music to such heights, that I got a sense of fulfillment from his music and I was content with that. I could hear music every day in the house and I didn’t feel I needed to practice or go to the piano. It was a joy for me to hear him practice. He would always strive to improve and go to the next level or dimension. That was amazing to me. I appreciated it so much.
IYM: What was it like to be married to John Coltrane? Was he a very spiritual person?
ST: He was a very quiet, meditative person, very pensive, very deep in thoughts. Many times you see couples whose personalities are opposite and they clash a lot. That doesn’t make for peace in your heart and home. I felt fortunate to be with someone who had that calm and peace in his spirit. John loved to read spiritual books–books on metaphysics, the Indian masters, Chinese temple music. He was a person who wanted to look deeper into the esoteric side of life. That was very interesting to me. We would meditate together.
IYM: Didn’t he explore a lot of spiritual themes in his music?
ST: John technically exhausted so many areas in the study, writing, research and performance of music. He explored it all but it was the spiritual side that brought in melodies and areas of music that had not been explored. Spirituality brought him into higher dimensions of musical life. I felt his real seeking. He was a man who believed in his heart that he could realize God and reveal God through his instrument. He was looking for God. He was a person always involved in exploring. Especially during the last five years of his life (from the time of “A Love Supreme”) it was all spiritual songs that came out–“Dear Lord, dearly beloved God, Om.” That is why we heard music that we hadn’t ever heard before, because I believe it wasn’t all from this world. He played from another realm, a spiritual realm.
IYM: How did you meet Sri Gurudev?
Read the rest of this article in the Fall 2005 issue of Integral Yoga Magazine.