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Monument Eternal: Alice Coltrane's Spiritual Aesthetics, with Franya Berkman, Lewis and Clark College

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Monday, March 28, 2011, 8:00 pm
622 Dodge Hall, Columbia University Morningside Campus
Free and open to the public.
The author will sign copies of her book at the event.

Alice Coltrane was a composer, improviser, guru, and widow of John Coltrane. Over the course of her musical life, she synthesized a wide range of musical genres including gospel, rhythm- and-blues, bebop, free jazz, Indian devotional song, and Western art music. Her childhood experiences playing for African-American congregations in Detroit, the ecstatic and avant-garde improvisations she performed on the bandstand with her husband John Coltrane, and her religious pilgrimages to India reveal themselves on more than twenty albums of original music for the Impulse and Warner Brothers labels. In the late 1970s she became a swami, directing an alternative spiritual community in Southern California.

Exploring her transformation from Alice McLeod, Detroit church pianist and bebopper, to guru Swami Turiya Sangitananda, Franya Berkman's new book, Monument Eternal: The Music of Alice Coltrane (Wesleyan University Press, 2010). illuminates her music and, in turn, reveals the exceptional fluidity of American religious practices in the second half of the twentieth century. Most of all, this book celebrates the hybrid music of an exceptional, boundary-crossing African-American artist. Dr. Berkman's talk will focus primarily on two aspects of Berkman's scholarly approach: ethnomusicological life history as a mode of inquiry in jazz studies, and the necessity of defining “a spiritual aesthetics" in exploring Alice Coltrane's work.

Franya Berkman is Assistant Professor of Music at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. She received her Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology at Wesleyan University in 2003, and she is currently working on her second book, Obo Addy: Ga Master Drummer, Global Musician. Her interdisciplinary scholarly interests include spiritual, cultural, and musical hybridity in the 20th/21st century, and life history in the study of music culture.

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