There is a fascinating drawing of what has come to be [informally] known as the John Coltrane Tone Circle. It is something that has been attributed to the physicist Stephon Alexander – author of the spectacular book The Jazz of Physics in which he draws parallels between Albert Einstein’s theories of physics, such as relativity, and John Coltrane.
It looks like a cosmogramme and if you look at it – fix your stare on it while listening to early or late-Coltrane music it begins to spin. Somewhere in the circle, now spinning away with joyful abandon is Alice Coltrane, his wife and soul-mate. And as she spins you become aware that Mr Alexander was right: ‘Trane is indeed part an astrophysical edifice. He was on his way to the rarefied realm where he belongs, when life had other plans and took him – body and spirit – into that realm but left Alice Coltrane to complete the earthly journey in the common musical voice that he had begun to establish.
Alice Coltrane did much more than that, of course. While few were paying attention, she quietly ascended to that rarefied realm musically, here on earth. Not long after her husband’s death, Alice Coltrane became Swamini Turiyasangitānanda. The Sai Anantam Ashram was founded in 1983 by Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitānanda, on sacred and serene land in the Santa Monica Mountains of Agoura, California.
Through the years, a multi-ethnic and multi-generational spiritual community emerged. One of the high points of this very special and loving environment took shape on Sundays, when Alice, also referred to as Swamini or Turiyasangitānanda by her family and students, would lead the community in a musical ceremony. Swamini took traditional Sanskrit chants and mantras, along with original compositions, and interwove them with her gospel roots, classical training, and dynamic avant-garde harmonics to create an extraordinarily powerful and unique sound.
In the spring of 2017, film-makers Vincent Moon and Priscilla Telmon were invited to make a contemporaneous portrait, of this very welcoming and beautiful spiritual community, which included speaking with some of the community’s elders, as well as Alice’s sister, singer Marilyn McLeod. A link to the full film is below.
The Sai Anantam Ashram’s temporal location ceased at the end of 2017, and sadly all of its buildings were destroyed in the California wildfires of November, 2018. However, the spirit and essence of the Ashram continues, and the work of Swamini Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitānanda still keeps spreading. If you would like to be informed of events, concerts or other developments, please email them and indicate your interest, at email@example.com
For more information about the Sai Anantam Ashram, please visit thevedanticcenter.org