Alice Coltrane’s song, Galaxy in Satchidananda, is phenomenal. I will get to why I think so in a moment. I will first say art reminds me, a little, of other jazz songs I’ve heard. Like Pharaoh Sander’s The Creator has a Master Plan, and John Coltrane’s Pt. IV-Psalm. Neither of them evoke a feeling of lost of explanation. In any case, I will attempt to explain what it evokes for me here.
It is slow in its delivery and deliberate as it delivers. The song’s instrumentation is so well orchestrated it sounds like it could be a great score, matched with a great movie. In the very beginning the song lets you know you have arrived. Then it welcomes you in, shows you around. Beautiful. Around the one-minute mark the harmonious strings take their time and tell their story. They tell you to relax your mind. Be still. The song evokes a feeling of sadness, while giving an uplifting sentiment, maybe even triumphalism. There is even a bit of rage, or the expression of what rage is like when it has no where to turn to, no one who cares it is there. It may even explain, just by listening, why certain rage should be understood. Yes, it calls for you be still so you can understand what you do not understand. You think too much. Relax the mind. Be still, I said.
Lately there’s been a lot of rage in human hearts due to the killing of a black man, George Floyd, by a white police officer, Derek Chauvin. The rage. The rage that builds watching a man be killed, ever so slowly, minute by minute, on video. 30 frames per second. The rage of a watching a man’s right to breathe be taken from him in the daylight. Minute by minute. The rage of hearing bystanders protest in those minutes for the man killing another man to cease. You made your point! Or did you? Or wait, what is your point? What exactly do you have in mind? The rage.
I can listen to Galaxy in Satchidananda and watch the television on mute of the people protesting his murder in the streets. I can listen to this song on my headphones and walk the streets of Minneapolis where George was from. Where George died. Where George was murdered. On the asphalt. On the asphalt made for automobile tires.
Face on the cement.
Knee on the neck.
The officer’s hand in the officer’s pocket.
This is the song I would use to make a documentary about the rage I would find in those streets. The pain that must release. The acts that feel justified because justice is out of grasp. Or non-existent. Time. After time. This song would persuade some listening (only if they listened), while watching (only if they watched) the images of people in pain. But first, they would have to be still.