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Keshava Murahara / Sleepy Owl

When I was young I spent many hours pouring over my parent’s vinyl collection, playing the records over and over, and reading all the liner notes.  I particularly remember Sgt Pepper, since the cover was so bright and interactive. I knew all the words to all the songs, and that was the beginning of my life-long love for music. I can’t imagine a better foundation than The Beatles; the Carpenters were also there, along with Randy Newman, and Elton John and Crosby Stills, Nash and Young (which I heard during long evenings spent at “the farm”–a family friends’ house), and no doubt other less luminary but nonetheless entertaining acts.

The record player at our house has finally been promoted from the basement to the living room, and so vinyl is spinning on a more regular basis at our house. I came upon a treasure trove of records recently at an antique shop, so I bought D his very own copies of Rubber Soul and Abbey Road.  I’ve taught him to put the needle on the record, and how to care for the records; how to hold them and put them back in their sleeves. He’s not very into it (yet?!), maybe because he expects music to come out of smart phones, not bookcase speakers. 

Me and Rubber Soul

For important releases that I know I will treasure for years to come, I buy vinyl (or put them on my amazon wishlist!). Even though my turntable is ancient and on the low end of the quality spectrum, and our speakers aren’t much better, I still love the sound.  My colleague and friend Adam has one of those high-end tube setups with fancy speakers and a special pickup–somehow I can’t see finding the extra cash for that…

Still, some records might be worth it, like the newest addition to the vinyl family, The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda. This is a stunning remaster of some music that had previously only been available on cassette, and even then the cassettes were rare.  The music was recorded at the ashram in Los Angeles she founded, in the 1980s, and to me, it is stirring and wonderful. I remember when I first heard some of Alice Coltrane’s spiritual music, in the 1990s when I was living in LA, and it stopped me in my tracks (a huge thank you Tom Schnabel and KCRW).  It was my introduction to the world of spiritual jazz, and as I reflect on it now, I see it was my entry into the world of jazz, period. Before then I liked Bossanova (thanks to Grandma Edwards’ records, which I still play!), but I hadn’t really understood or cared for American jazz–I thought it was all Glenn Miller bebop and Louis Armstrong big band. Which was ok, but it didn’t really hook me.  This music did, and I then started to understand there was a whole movement–a whole genre: John Coltrane was the beginning. Then I learned about Pharoah Sanders, and I was a convert. 

When I was pregnant with Dashiell we went to see Pharoah Sanders perform in Portland, and I remember thinking: great, he can “get” this music from the beginning of his life. He won’t have to wait! But it turns out there was an even better way to hook him: Kamasi Washington, who is a John Coltrane for today–maybe even better; he gets people dancing–at jazz concerts! It just shows there are no boundaries for good music. As Louis Armstrong famously said:

There are simply two kinds of music, good music and the other kind … the only yardstick by which the result should be judged is simply that of how it sounds. If it sounds good it’s successful; if it doesn’t it has failed.

Dashiell started drum lessons with Jason this week. I think this is the perfect instrument for his wiggly body and kinesthetic learning style.  If you can feel the beat and keep the beat, that’s the foundation of everything. 

Today, he is exhausted from his first full week of school AND Julie’s birthday sleepover last night, which was owl themed. The owls did crafts like painting a ceramic owl, and made eye masks, which proved to be very useful today. On his 6-ish hours of sleep, D didn’t even make it until lunchtime. I put on the Alice Coltrane song I knew had made him sleepy once in the past, installed him on the couch, put the eye mask on, and crossed my fingers. It worked! He was out. 

 

You know how rare this is! We have Alice to thank for getting him to do some deep breathing, letting his little body drift off to sleep, his legs jerking around from overtiredness.  Here is the song, titled Keshava Murahara (“Victory to Lord Keshava”). 

Although Alice is known for her harp playing, which is astounding, this song features the Oberheim synthesizer, an instrument she was experimenting with at the time.  If you need to focus your mind, get relaxed, or just take a break from the world, give it a listen. I hope to make you a convert, too (meet me at the ashram for a long weekend of yoga and chanting, anyone? I could do with a spa break!)

For me, these “eastern” or “mystical” sounds never went out of style, but I’ll admit you have to be in the mood for them. I’m not the only fan still looking for solace in this music:  George Harrison’s sitar is going up for auction this weekend–the bidding starts at $50,000. 

2 Comments

  1. Thanks for turning me on to Alice Coltrane. Your blog is amazing.

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