Finding Depth In Music

Finding Depth In Music

John Coltrane and Mary Lou Williams show us that it is possible to find a deeper dimension in music.

Thanks to the incredible support and guidance of Dr. David Belcastro and Prof. Stan Smith, I have been able to study independently this semester the topic of “Jazz and Spirituality.” My study has consisted of weekly meetings with Dr. Belcastro and Prof. Smith, a lot of reading, a lot of listening, and a lot of composing and playing music. I am mainly studying saxophonist John Coltrane and pianist Mary Lou William’s lives, as well as some of the work of the monk Thomas Merton. But when you’re in the same room with people like Dr. Belcastro and Prof. Smith, ideas shoot back and forth, filling the place with a kind of wisdom that goes beyond intellectual knowledge. The ebb and flow of the conversation takes us through topics like the blues, the ineffable, the meaning of numbers, the role of the jazz musician, and a myriad of other topics that together create a composition worth paying attention to.

Dr. Belcastro doesn’t like the term “spirituality.” Prof. Smith doesn’t like the term “jazz.” Yet here we are, trying to make sense of the labels we have assigned to things that cannot be labeled. Our focus lies on taking Coltrane and Mary Lou William’s experiences and music and trying to figure out how it all played out in their lives. Coltrane saw in the marriage of spirituality and jazz a never ending quest. A quest for what? We don’t know. Perhaps Coltrane didn’t know either. A quest for God? A quest for the ineffable? Perhaps he did know. And perhaps I will know by the end of the semester. But in knowing and not knowing we find Coltrane’s never ending solos, his scale runs and his squeaks, his beautiful compositions and his willingness to share a piece of his soul with us. And who would be a better companion to Coltrane on this journey than Mary Lou Williams? Even though her conversion to Roman Catholicism didn’t come till later in her life, ever since she was born she had an inclination for the spiritual, seeing ghosts and having visions and premonitions from a really young age. In Mary Lou we see the story of jazz unfold, from its era as popular dance music all the way down to avant-garde and beyond. In her we see a devout Christian “praying” through her music. In her we see a musician who wrote music that came from her soul and that is able to reach our own souls.

So why should you care about any of this? If you’re a musician, and specially if you consider yourself a “jazz" musician, I believe that thinking about the depth that can be attached to your music is as important as the notes and licks you play. Only by speaking from our hearts we can connect to our audience in a way that will pull them into the music and speak to their inner selves. In this era of entertainment, it is harder and harder to create real connections between the audience and the musicians. Let us therefore not distance ourselves even further by ignoring the depth of the experience that music can create. If you’re part of the audience, then realize that there is an experience of music that can point out to something deeper. An experience of music that can draw us out from the anxious, fast-paced lives we live into a moment of peaceful existence.

These are only some initial thoughts that I have drawn out from the few weeks I’ve been studying this topic, but I believe that already there is much to be learned from what I have studied. If you’re interested in the topic, don’t hesitate to reach out! I’ll be having a recital on November 29th at 8 pm as the final project for my study of “Jazz and Spirituality” in which I will be playing solo and group material written by Coltrane, by Mary Lou and by myself, along with the recitation of poems by Thomas Merton with tied to some of the music.

Cover Image Credit: Bob Thiele

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I'm The Girl Without A 'Friend Group'

And here's why I'm OK with it


Little things remind me all the time.

For example, I'll be sitting in the lounge with the people on my floor, just talking about how everyone's days went. Someone will turn to someone else and ask something along the lines of, "When are we going to so-and-so's place tonight?" Sometimes it'll even be, "Are you ready to go to so-and-so's place now? Okay, we'll see you later, Taylor!"

It's little things like that, little things that remind me I don't have a "friend group." And it's been like that forever. I don't have the same people to keep me company 24 hours of the day, the same people to do absolutely everything with, and the same people to cling to like glue. I don't have a whole cast of characters to entertain me and care for me and support me. Sometimes, especially when it feels obvious to me, not having a "friend group" makes me feel like a waste of space. If I don't have more friends than I can count, what's the point in trying to make friends at all?

I can tell you that there is a point. As a matter of fact, just because I don't have a close-knit clique doesn't mean I don't have any friends. The friends I have come from all different walks of life, some are from my town back home and some are from across the country. I've known some of my friends for years, and others I've only known for a few months. It doesn't really matter where they come from, though. What matters is that the friends I have all entertain me, care for me, and support me. Just because I'm not in that "friend group" with all of them together doesn't mean that we can't be friends to each other.

Still, I hate avoiding sticking myself in a box, and I'm not afraid to seek out friendships. I've noticed that a lot of the people I see who consider themselves to be in a "friend group" don't really venture outside the pack very often. I've never had a pack to venture outside of, so I don't mind reaching out to new people whenever.

I'm not going to lie, when I hear people talking about all the fun they're going to have with their "friend group" over the weekend, part of me wishes I could be included in something like that. I do sometimes want to have the personality type that allows me to mesh perfectly into a clique. I couldn't tell you what it is about me, but there is some part of me that just happens to function better one-on-one with people.

I hated it all my life up until very recently, and that's because I've finally learned that not having a "friend group" is never going to be the same as not having friends.

SEE ALSO: To The Girls Who Float Between Friend Groups

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20 Amazing Songs You Need For Your Travel Music Videos

Planning to make your new travel video? Use one of these songs as your perfect background music!


Based on the mood you're currently feeling, here are 20 different songs categorized by when you should use them for a traveling music video:

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"Harvest Moon" by Poolside

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For all the lake adventures and mission trips, these are the perfect songs to put behind them to share your experience. Using these songs, your video can have a perfect summer vibe to it!

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"The Days" by Avicii

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"It Ain't Me" by Kygo ft. Selena Gomez

It's hard finding a perfect song for a cold winter day. These songs can work amazingly to any snowy adventurous video you've made for your winter break.

3. For Everyday Adventures

"Shut Up and Dance" by WALK THE MOON

"To Let Myself Go" by The Avener

"All That Matters" by Justin Bieber

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We all have our daily vlogs filled with school and friends. These songs can put a touch of amusement and thrill to these videos!

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"Steal My Girl" by One Direction

"The Nights" by Avicii

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Every girl has the perfect week at the beach once a year! These songs can show off how incredible your experience with your friends was.

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"Bullet Train" by Stephen Swartz

"Love You Like A Love Song" by Selena Gomez

"G.O.M.D." by J. Cole

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We all take visits to the city and never have the right songs to make a video with. These upbeat songs will make your city vlog into a perfect travel video!

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