Justin Cole

Artist's Statement: 

When I listen to ambient music I am immersed in environmental vibrations, evoking the infinite, enveloping me in sonic coziness. I could live in its smudged tones, slide my body into its sound waves for what feels like eternity, and contemplate the very universe. John Coltrane’s music slips into my soul in exactly this same way.  His music inspired me to the degree that I wanted to reenact the expanse he creates, and to honor his spirit.  So, during the holiday season of 2018, I approached Sean Smith about collaborating on an ambient music project.

 

Initially, I didn’t know exactly what the project would be, and Sean’s first question was, “How do you want to make it?”  I took this question home and turned it over for a while.  Finally, I realized that I wanted to dramatically slow down John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” and turn it into a long form environmental soundscape.  Sean was enthusiastic about this idea and went right to work on brilliantly translating Coltrane’s sheet music for saxophone, bass, and piano into a visual score for us to follow and play.  His drawings provided the path for our sonic journey and you can view them in the liner notes booklet.  As for the sounds, Sean suggested the synthesizer presets, which I feel recall his LFZ project.  Once these decisions were made, we began recording in January 2019.

 

It is important to note that our re-imagination of Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” is played note for note as written by John Coltrane in 1960.  We haven’t changed the notes, only the timbre and the duration.  We extended the first 27 seconds of Giant Steps’ melody into a 21-minute immersive environment of synthesizer music.  Playing incredibly slowly is very difficult (it is easy for the brain to wander), so when we recorded our parts, we used stopwatches to aid our transitions from note to note, a la John Cage and Julius Eastman.  

 

I had to ask myself why I would want to re-imagine a masterwork like Coltrane’s “Giant Steps”? I have been in awe of John Coltrane’s music, life, and philosophy-and deeply altered as a person-since first discovering his music as a teenager. I am not alone in this reverence for Coltrane’s life and music. Coltrane is literally considered a saint by many people the world over. There is a church and choir built in his name in San Francisco for good reason. Coltrane’s music is often acknowledged as the highest expression of spirituality in American music.  More specifically, Black music is the soul of America, and Coltrane is the patron spiritual saint. 

 

Ambient music can evoke the infinite and cosmic. Ambient often forces one to slow down and attune with the sonic vibrations emanating from the speakers. This is in parallel to the celestial and spiritual feeling that I perceive when I listen to John Coltrane’s music. Coltrane’s music transports, sometimes gently, sometimes viciously, but always with mindfulness, beauty, and grace. His music makes your soul grow whether you want it to or not. And the timing of our world in this very moment, matched my idea of drastically slowing down, with a Coltrane-ian urgency of forced, vicious, delicious human pondering and growth. 

 

Sean and I finished recording around March of 2019 and began mixing and mastering later that year.  Who knew that soon after we finished the world would grind to a halt under the weight of Coronavirus, and foment the necessity of Black Lives Matter protests?  

 

Life has transformed so much in just one year that the context within which we began the project of an ambient Giant Steps has changed completely, but the meaning and effects are even more cogent and timely.  Coltrane wrote Giant Steps during the post-World War II Civil rights era.  When I listen to Giant Steps, I hear the struggle for freedom from racism, the “frenetic” pace of post-war American life, and a unique voice filled with agency, joy, and the cosmos, literally trying to take giant steps toward new consciousness. Now, America is in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, racial upheaval disturbingly similar to that occurring during Coltrane’s life, disastrous climate occurrences, and political disintegration. We find ourselves right back at the beginning of our country’s endless growing pains. The glaring parallel between the struggle for freedom and equality of the 60’s, and that of our current epoch shows again the painful yet crucial need for political and planetary changes. Coltrane reflected the pace of rapid societal change sixty years ago, and unfortunately, we are in need of the same rapid changes once again.

 

The events of 2020 have forced me to completely re-imagine the direction of American life. I have been forced to reconnect to life basics, to measurably slow down, and find spirit and soul in the shadows. Ironically, slowing down makes me feel more alive, more capable, as a human. It helps me attune to the hope, possibility, and solace often obscured by the modern world. So, it is time to pause and rewind. This answered my own question of why I wanted to alter Coltrane’s composition into a slow, ambient form; and then listen just as slowly. Inspired by John Coltrane, I lean slowly yet firmly into a new consciousness of living in accord with our bodies, each other, the planet, and the universe. 

 

I invite you to take a few moments from your busy day, slip yourself into the immersive sounds of Saint Coltrane channeling the spiritual. Try to slow down, fully pause, attune again, with the planet, the universe, and each other.  Allow Coltrane to swirl your soul, through instrument and vibration, into a spiritual plane that connects all living and non-living things.  See if he doesn’t help you to reorient to the planet’s vibrations. I invite you, for just a few moments…

 

Justin Cole, 2021

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D071F98C-286C-42C8-AAF1-CA28F1511D31 - Justin Cole.jpeg

Giant Steps, 2021, vinyl record, photograph and booklet, 12”x12”, 21’05” duration

For direct sale from the artist

$50

CA31A485-60FE-4D67-955B-0E81AA1FB6E4 - Justin Cole.jpeg

Giant Steps, 2021, vinyl record, photograph and booklet, 12”x12”, 21’05” duration

For direct sale from the artist

$50

CFA28365-A955-4EC1-AE75-BBD6910FFEF3 - Justin Cole.jpeg

Giant Steps, 2021, vinyl record, photograph and booklet, 12”x12”, 21’05” duration

For direct sale from the artist

$50

461DF91D-35C7-48C2-8B2B-E16D760330AB - Justin Cole.jpeg

Giant Steps, 2021, vinyl record, photograph and booklet, 12”x12”, 21’05” duration

For direct sale from the artist

$50

C1EE7D1B-0EE2-45EF-BF0F-0BE3E8ECD104 - Justin Cole.jpeg

Giant Steps, 2021, vinyl record, photograph and booklet, 12”x12”, 21’05” duration

For direct sale from the artist

$50

For direct sale, email: justincolestudio@gmail.com

15% of proceeds from sales will be donated to Bridge