The history of American religions is overrun with intentional communities and religious utopian experiments, many of which have a strongly pedagogical and/or social critical dimension. Jazz has nurtured a number of significant counter-academies, community organizations, and experimental societies focused on musical and religious development simultaneously. This chapter examines several such endeavors—Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, St. Louis’s Black Artists Group, Los Angeles’s Union of God’s Musicians in Artists Ascension, the Church of John Coltrane, and Alice Coltrane’s ashram—in light of this long history of new religious movements and their alternate socialities. By examining and contextualizing the motivations of community members, we see how the disciplines of music-making are integral to (even coterminous with) the formation of new religious identities that contrast with those of an artless world.
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