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Hesterian Spirituals:

Musicism within a Poly-dimensional Universe

Karlton E. Hester, Ph.D.



 Areas of Scholarship:


  1. Music Composition, Theory and Performance / 2. Music History / 3. Ethnomusicology

/  4. Africana Studies / 5.  Philosophy


Published by:
Hesteria Records & Publishing Company
148 Hagar Court
Santa Cruz, CA 95064



Table of Contents


Preface: Music of the Spheres
Chapter 1: Genesis: Twin Pyramids
Chapter 2: Human Spirit - A Love Supreme
Chapter 3: Mirror - Impressions
Chapter 4: International Language: Expression
Chapter 5: History: Giant Steps
Chapter 6: Segregation – Africa and India
Chapter 7: Ambassadors: Spiritual
Chapter 8: Secular and Sacred: Ascension
Chapter 9: Blues: One Up, One Down
Chapter 10: Music Industry: Interstellar Space


Appendix A: Supplementary Reading
Appendix B: Musical Examples



0 - Preface  
Music of the Spheres


"... and the whole heaven to be a musical scale and a number... "

The Seven Great Egyptian Hermetic Principles in an Omni-Dimensional Universe


When on looks at the cosmos, the movement of the stars and planets, the laws of vibration and rhythm – all perfect and unchanging – it shows that the cosmic system is working by the law of music, the law of harmony. Whenever that harmony in the cosmic system is lacking in any way, then in proportion disasters come about in the world, and its influence is seen in many destructive forces which manifests in the world. If there is any principle upon which the whole of astrological law is based – and the science of magic and mysticism behind it – it is music.[1]


African-American “Jazz” culture evolved through a process of creativity, mentorship, fellowship and scholarship. This book explores those domains of “abstract truth.” If we view the universe as a unified whole, bound together by vibration of spirit energy, then we can begin to sense its order. Maharamayana expresses that potential this way: “The moon is one, but on agitated water it produces many reflections. Similarly ultimate reality is one, yet it appears to be many in a mind agitated by thoughts.”


What if there was a relationship between creativity and the Creator; between vibrations of music and those of particle spins in chemistry? What if a single note contained a mathematical formula that was the key to countless other universal phenomena? What if music reflected the world in which it evolves in more dimensions than a mirror could never capture of an image? What if music from around the world was just variations of the same dialect? Suppose that music was capable of healing the body. I think that all of these possibilities above are true.


To understand the basic essence of vibrations, balance, polarity and omni-consciousness is to understand oneself and the connection of spirits to the Creator; so it is certainly no small feat. The ancient Egyptians summed up many of the concepts expressed earlier in the book with regards to basic universal principles whose relevance to out contemplation on spontaneous composition we want carefully consider. Many spiritualists and metaphysicians center these principles within our body, mind and spirit before seeking an understanding of universal “truths” in the external realm. In fact, focusing of the whole “you” as a nucleus to existence connects us to the universe at large. The Seven Great Egyptian Hermetic Principles are:


l.  The Principle of Mentalism - "The all is mind: the universe is mental."

2. The Principle of Correspondence - "As above, so below; as below, so above."

3. The Principle of Vibration - "Nothing rests: everything moves: everything vibrates."

4. The Principle of Polarity - "Everything is dual; everything has poles; everything has its pair of opposites; like and unlike are the same; opposites are identical in nature, but different in degree; extremes meet; all truths are but half-truths; all paradoxes may be reconciled."

5. The Principle of Rhythm - "Everything flows, out and in; everything has its tides; all things rise and fall; the pendulum swing manifests in everything; the measure of the swing to the right is the measure of the swing to the left; rhythm compensates."

6. The Principle of Cause and Effect - "Every cause has its effect; every effect has its cause; everything happens according to the law; chance is but a name for law not recognized; there are many planes of causation, but nothing escapes the law."

7. The Principle of Gender - "Gender is in everything; everything has its masculine and feminine principles; gender manifests on all planes."





Artistic innovations come from those who dare to dream and create unique authentic perspective. Innovators move beyond the paradigms and limitations of the past. People should never lose sight of their dreams. Although dreams are modified continually over time, because life (and the universe) is flexible and we must roll with the cosmic tide, people must never stop dreaming.


What is Hesterian Musicism? The simplest definition is usually the best. Hesterian Musicism is the sum total of my individual and collective explorations of the universe through music.  “Musicism” is a term that I coined several decades ago to express the ways in which I attempt to apply a holistic approach to music during my personal musical journey to a general understanding of the universe. That voyage aspires to elevate Musicism to the spiritual world. The Creator guides us to greater echelons of possibility. Therefore, inspiration is the realm within which the Creator acts through us as an instrument (or vehicle), just as a flute is an instrument that musicians set in motion with their musical ability and ideas. That world is one of vision where artists have just to imagine the possibilities, then follow the path towards the light at the end of the tunnel. Reverend Deborah L. Johnson[2] suggested the analogy of Dorothy’s vision of the Land of Oz and her unwavering journey along the Yellow Brick Road toward her dream of finding answers and solutions from the Wizard of Oz. She said that, “vision is a feeling rather than a reaction,” and that keeping dreams alive involves simply living the life for which we have been innately ordained.


A dictionary may tell us that sight is our perception of something using the visual sense; and that vision is an image or concept in the imagination. Musicism is not necessarily a situation where “seeing is believing” since there is often no music or script to read, compelling the performers and all artists involved to adopt a willingness to believe in what they are creating collectively in the absence of the facts or proof that upon which they may ordinarily rely. In such situations artists must stay focused and believe in themselves. Johnson pointed out the tremendous difference between sight and vision. She feels that, when we use only sight, the way that we see things can limits us to constant struggle because “pain pushes until vision pulls.” As a consequence, sight can just keep bringing us back to points of irritation. Thus we make precognitive commitments, where what we see is predetermined by what we expect. Most people who listen to music bring predetermined cultural baggage to each musical experience. Johnson would say that the visionary artist does not let probability limit possibility.


This book is perhaps an abstract verbal way of explaining what the term means to me in part – beyond the definition that my music proper provides more eloquently – in terms of gradually developing my “Love/Ontology” through an exploration of vibration. In is a compilation of those things learned along a path of vision. Thus, Musicism is a conscious way to reconcile music with all other vibratory forces in the universe. This is a study of musical vibration and its relationship to other systems of vibration throughout the universe. Therefore, a study of Musicism involves a glimpse at my personal way of putting music at the center of my soul to view the universe through a microscope and a telescope; and trying to discover relationships between all vibrating phenomena. In the pages that follow I will expose readers to the various ideas that I have contemplated over the years in an effort to better understand the “Music of the Spheres.” There are few meaningful conclusions that can be distilled other than the fact that all things vibrate in systematic ways.


It seemed clear to the Pythagoreans that the distances between the planets would have the same ratios as the overtone series produced from the harmonious sounds in a plucked string. The felt that the solar system consisted of ten spheres revolving in circles about a central fire, each sphere giving off its own sound frequency the way projectiles on Earth makes a sound as they move through the atmosphere. Thus, the closer spheres to the source gave lower tones while the ones farther away moved faster and, consequently, gave higher frequencies of sounds. All of these sound of motion combined into a beautiful harmony referred to as the music of the spheres.


Other notable European philosophers, mathematicians and astronomers have expressed related ideas. The Pythagorean idea was picked up by Plato, who in his Republic says of the cosmos; ". . . Upon each of its circles stood a siren who was carried round with its movements, uttering the concords of a single scale," and, in his Timaeus, he describes the circles of heaven subdivided according to the musical ratios. Around 20 centuries later, Kepler wrote in his Harmonice Munde (1619) that he wished "to erect the magnificent edifice of the harmonic system of the musical scale . . . as God, the Creator Himself, has expressed it in harmonizing the heavenly motions."

Kepler says later, "I grant you that no sounds are given forth, but I affirm . . . that the movements of the planets are modulated according to harmonic proportions."


People throughout the ages have recognized the connection between music, mathematics, and other universal phenomena. The Quadrivium is the Pythagoreans division of mathematics into four groups. It is there that we find a banner that reads, "Harmonia est discordia concors" or Harmony is discordant concord, propounding the thesis that harmony results from two unequal intervals drawn from dissimilar proportions. The diagram shows compasses, suggesting a link between geometry and music.


This arrangement provided the famous Quadrivium of knowledge, the four subjects needed for a bachelor's degree in the Middle Ages. Aristotle said that, "[the Pythagoreans] saw that the ... ratios of musical scales were expressible in numbers [and that] .. all things seemed to be modeled on numbers, and numbers seemed to be the first things in the whole of nature, they supposed the elements of number to be the elements of all things, and the whole heaven to be a musical scale and a number."


How is “spiritual” generally defined? The Wikipedia say, “A spiritual is an African American song, usually with a Christian religious text. Originally monophonic and a cappella, these songs are antecedents of the blues. The terms Negro spiritual, Black spiritual, and African-American spiritual are all synonyms; in the 19th century the term jubilee was more common (at least among African-Americans; whites often called them slave songs). Some musicologists call them African-American folk songs.”[3]


In this book “spiritual” derives its flexible and fluid meaning from a provocative thought that I recently heard an African-American poet recite (he did not give his name) when I was playing a gig in Berkeley, California. His rhetorical question (theme) what, “What if there was only one God?” He then methodically listed the implications of this possibility and included: no Jesus, no Buddha, no Kristna, no Mohammad, no religion, no atheists, no Christians, no Jews, no churches, no synagogues, no greed, no war, no killing, no greed, no nations, no holidays (but every day’s a holy day), . . . etc. This poem proposed the complete, focused and ultimate unity through recognizing a single source (seed, God, Creator) and the peace and harmony that would potentially bring. Unity brings wholeness, which is holistic. Therefore, my use of the word “spiritual” suggests examining music in a holistic way that includes a “double fundaments; the inner self as the microcosmic lens, and the universe as the macroscopic lens, through which we continually seek answers to the questions of the nature of vibration, harmony, creativity and love.


Music is one of the most multidimensional things in which intimately humans engage, so it should be investigated in a fashion that pays respect to its full scope. The purpose of this book is to present ideas about music composition that both musicians and the general reader can ponder. The content that follows is not simply a theoretical or practical study of musical elements written specifically for musicians. Instead it is a comparative analysis of ideas about creativity, vibration, spiritual influence, and an array of related concepts that surround music. Composers study, perform, compose and write their musical theories. Writing about music involves intellectual and emotional reflection. My books and music are not intended to challenge existing theories, histories or doctrines. They simply intend to reflect an individual personal expression of ideas that evolves from a continued study of the world of music and the universe in general. Information is presented here in a fashion that is related to the compositional processes, those that relate to the way we absorb process and retain information, involving rhapsodic repetition variations that re-enforce the most essential thematic ideas for the purposes of their retention.


My first book was on the music of John Coltrane, since his music had the deepest effect on my early musical direction and perspective. At the time I felt that the spontaneous compositions produced in Coltrane’s latest period was rarely investigated despite its importance to the evolution of “jazz” in the sixties and beyond. That process afforded me an opportunity to explore “jazz” in the microcosmic realm, through a close-up investigation of Coltrane’s music, while considering some of the social forces that inevitably influence and impact upon the life of a musician and his or her music. Nonetheless, due to the tremendous depth of Coltrane’s musical development, I found it impossible to do much better than scratch the surface. When I discovered his “matrix” I was impressed by its implications, but I did not feel ready to make any particular assumptions about its meaning. Arranged much as an astrological chart is, Coltrane’s matrix (mandala) reflected his exploration of potential relationships between various forces of the mundane (material) and arcane (spiritual) worlds. It appeared that he now understood ways to merge his understanding of the blues matrix with the mathematical symmetry and cyclical patterns of his own personal musical ideas.


The music of Coltrane’s various compositions from his final decade (Giant Steps, A Love Supreme, Impressions, Spiritual, Africa, India, Ascension, Expression, Interstellar Space, etc.) became guiding lights for the musical perspectives of many artists. Giant Steps marked both a culminating point in his study of conventional tonal theory and the beginning of a new sense of musical freedom. As his vision became increasingly clearer, and as he collaborated with other artists who were aligned with his musical direction and vision, his approach to composition gradually became increasingly more spontaneous. Just as Coltrane gradually moved toward producing music with only the matrix he and his associates committed to memory as a mutual score; thus, there seems to have been little or no notated score for his Interstellar Space, for example.


Changing times inevitably require the construction of new paradigms. Twentieth-century technological advances introduced new means of amplification, sound production and recording capabilities. Electronic sequencing and notation software eventually created new ways to compose. Musical symbols, notation and scores in general introduce new processes and take on new meanings. The limitations and purpose of the musical score in the nineteenth century moved beyond the confines and parameters of twenty-first-century scores. Written instructions for tempi, dynamics and other musical expression were elevated to levels of greater technical precision with the introduction of digital recording.


Both life and music involve making choices. People learn in different ways. The purpose of this study is to consider ways composers express ideas as they observe the world around them. To create spontaneous art effectively requires ‘presence.’ Musicians must approach the moment with preparation and direct full attention to the task at hand. Accomplishing this is natural, but most of us have been socialized to filter everything more through our logical processes rather than trusting the efficacy of our intuitive capacity.


This is not a music theory book. Instead it is a collection of ideas regarding music’s connection to all other vibrating things. Hopefully, therefore, readers from a wide spectrum of interests and backgrounds will find elements of this book useful. Students may find helpful prescriptions for learning to compose, improvise and arrange, and use the following scales and patterns to advance their technical facility. “Jazz” evolves through a myriad of forces on a variety of musical, social and spiritual levels. Spirituality is a difficult element to qualify and quantify. Nonetheless, it worthy of some level of consideration in this study, since a number of “jazz” innovators considered spirituality a dominant force in their lives and music, as the titles of compositions by Mary Lou Williams, Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, and others suggest. The content of the chapters that follow is not intended to prescribe musical formulae for composers and improvisers. Instead, the point is to help generate a broad range of ideas and encourage creative exploration based on fundamental musical knowledge. Thus, the much of the following materials presented represent my subjective musical collection of contemplations and explorations along a path of perpetual self-discovery.


Music and life evolves from the universal laws of Nature. The evolution of music began with the multifaceted characteristics of a single tone. The extended patterns and qualities that radiate from such a tone are reflective of fundamental patterns that extend throughout the universe. The overtone series became the initial musical foundation, from which melodic and harmonic development emerged, just as our bipolar human orientation and perception of the universe set much of our approaches to organizing rhythm in motion. Although musical tendencies evolving from the overtone series became dogmatic musical policies in some cultures, Nature remains the most reliable source of information for explorers of musical evolution. Reconciling the rules of sound in Nature with those social musical procedures, evolved through various theoretical conclusions adopted worldwide, is a daunting task. Composition (spontaneous or premeditated) often attempts to evolve organic “sound-environments” that reflect human thoughts, emotions, experiences, and other universal ideas and processes stored within our consciousness and subconscious minds.


Waves are formed when a state of equilibrium encounters a disturbance. Most of us have seen the effect sound has on sand when placed on a thin metal plate, then exposed to the vibrations of sound. The magical symmetrical patterns that form suggest that the abstract sound of music has a measurable and systematic effect on the physical environment. Nothing is irrelevant in the general scheme of events and phenomena that occur within the universe. Action yields its consequences, therefore, in a world of continual tension and release, ebb and flow, yin and yang, and other forms of polarity that perpetually propels existence forward in an expanding universe. The theories proposed in this study are based largely upon harmony that is implied in the overtone series. Music throughout the world evolved out of an evolving aural understanding of the harmonic series. Of course every action or theory usually has an equal and opposing action or theory. 


Creativity produces ritual, emotional and intuitive manifestations, on one end of the spectrum, and strictly rational works on the other.  Of course, these poles are not mutually exclusive, but music of various world cultures reflects different kinds of settings.  Indian audiences might be insulted by starts and stops, interrupting music with by verbose explanation that might occur during a lecture demonstration involving Indian music, whereas some European cultures are completely comfortable with that particular mixture. Approaching music as a system of communication that evolves out of the overtone series tends to produce an open-ended inquiry that involves a natural application of intuition and measurement. Conventional music theory in the Western world produce even divisions of the octave based on a systematic approaches to music. Individuals and societies can view the world through lenses that perhaps primarily reflect either a general right-brain or left-brain orientation. Spontaneous composition is strongest when it combines both brain realms of thought processing so that intuition and technique reinforce each other throughout periods of creative production. The problems that emerge as composers struggle with the forces of polarity, dynamics, and other musical elements and dimensions are ultimately resolved once the performance is completed since the outcome then stands historically as a complete and independent phenomenon. Just as each person is a complete individual that others can appreciate, dislike or totally disregard, the same is true of musical composition. Nonetheless, each composition is validated by the fact each that simply exists. To varying degrees, someone inevitably appreciates, dislikes or totally disregards all musical composition.


Of course, there are intangible qualities of music (and of human perception in general) that defy analysis? Music can be poetic as it reflects an inner spirit whose ethereal makeup escapes mathematical of chemical scrutiny. The imprint created by the range of qualities within each musical tone that Bessie Smith, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, Billie Holiday, or Thelonious Monk produces are poly-dimensional. Under careful microscopic analysis, it is clear that all increments of the elements of timbre, melody, rhythm, texture, harmony, dynamics, form and style that each artist emits are pregnant with its own distinguished attributes. Machines have no inner soul or emotions to reflect regardless of their levels of technical proficiency. Computers can learn but they cannot feel. Therefore, the spontaneous expression of Coltrane’s saxophone will always be distinguishable from the spontaneous saxophone sounds a machine might produce. Tone modulates to produce a range of tension and release that ranges from the relative smoothness of sine wave flute timbre to the more anxious, overtone enriched tone of an oboe or bassoon. Melodies can be active and involve saturated density of motion, or the can remain meditative and focused upon the isolation of moments, emotions and ideas.


This book contains information obtained gradually through meditations, contemplation, practice and a variety of sources. Most of all, I have been inspired by the thoughts and deeds of a number of master musicians, thinkers and mentors whose ideas permeate each of the chapters that follow. The material is not organized in any sort of standard “theory of composition”, but it hopefully flows with the same degree of Afrocentric logic, streams of consciousness and organic structure, as did the abstract logic of the prime ensembles Miles Davis or John Coltrane. African-African music informs the listener of some elements of thousands of years that form the socio-cultural history of Global African music. African-American artists emphasize content over form so that each poetic cell of information becomes a cogent message charged with instructive information and wisdom. Composers don’t write long sets of notes for each of their compositions. Instead their short titles provide infinite insight into their lives and music. Charlie Parker’s at once humorous, tragic and ironic title “Relaxin’ at Camarillo” tells us the ‘who,’ ‘what’ ‘where,’ ‘why’ and ‘how’ of a situation in his life in three words, if we know how to interpret his descriptive message. Each tone and nuance of the musical information great musicians produce is equally rich.


Innovative spontaneous composers bring their individuality to their musical output. Their individual and collective musical personalities shed light on the process of musical evolution. Thelonious Monk’s tendency to play simultaneous half steps not only implies the quarter-step between them but also emphasizes the importance of the dominant sharp-9th chord (C-E-G-Bb-D#) that opens a window of understanding into the blues sonority and matrix. For those who imitate rather than learning to move through a process that leads towards self-discovery, trumpeter Donald Byrd says that great people explain to those interested in reproducing music that they should “Do as I do, not what I do.” A few years ago, at a concert billed as a tribute to John Coltrane in Boston, imitators spent an entire evening attempting to play ‘like Coltrane.’ When master musician Yusef Lateef came on stage, however, he gave tribute to ‘Trane by performing one of his own unique composition in a fresh, expressive and personal voice that emerged from the meditative stillness of humility and ancestral wisdom.





Music is the mirror of our souls. The development of music skill that will touch humankind requires tenacity, dedication, wisdom, humility, compassion and love. I have collected a few gems from e-mail messages that I have received over the years that sum up general qualities that elevate individuals to their highest good that, of course, apply to music as well. Here are a few selected thoughts from that list:


  1. The nobler sort of human emphasizes the good qualities in others, and does not accentuate the bad. The inferior does the reverse.
  2. When you are laboring for others let it be with the same zeal as if it were for yourself.
  3. Our greatest glory is lies beyond never falling, but in rising every time we fall.
  4. The expectations of life depend upon diligence; the mechanic that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools.
  5. To see the right and not to do it is cowardice.
  6. Those who speak without modesty will find it difficult to make their words good.
  7. The superior human thinks always of virtue; the common man thinks of comfort.


     "If you have knowledge, let others light their candles in it."   Margaret Fuller

[1] Khan, of Hazrat Inayat. The Mysticism of Sound and Music: The Sufi Teaching of Hazrat Inayat Khan. Shambhala: Boston, 1996. p. 13.

[2] Pastor of Inner Light Ministries in Santa Cruz, California


© Hesteria Records & Publishing Co. 2006
Santa Cruz, California

Copyright 2007 by Hesteria Records & Publishing Co.
148 Hagar Court
Santa Cruz, California 95064  


All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored inn a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.