Essays by Dr. Yusef A. Lateef

By Yusef Lateef

Flowers, beautiful flowers, children, humanity, lovely, love, life, embrace all – please! Don’t let evil subdue us. Take from our minds the thornlike thoughts that torture us like bloodsucking leeches and demons of disenchantment. Free us of withering, despairing thoughts that inhabit our minds like the dull buzzing of dragonflies. Take from our hearts the veils of ignorance that we may walk in peace. Come soon – please!

Love opens the gates of truth and justice and the lips of flowers – yes, love while there is time, while the heart still struggles within, to love. The beating while we live is constant, that bleeding flesh within the chest. How long will it continue? A heart stops, another starts, it beats and bleeds within the chest, it whispers, it speaks the truth – listen! The soul, sometime staggering under life’s challenge, is straining every unseen fiber, then desires and fears are seen no longer; the soul is but a stillness somewhere in space. The heart speaks to the soul. Listen to this internal dialogue. See with the eyes of the heart; Listen when it speaks, for the heart is born pure.

The waves of life scatter the winds of time. Shreds of life are floating along in time. Loveless moments are to be avoided.

When the soul looks out of its body, it should see only beauty in its path. These are the sights we must hold in mind, in order to move to a higher place. Time after time in our hearts and soul we find love. No static, no pain – so pure, so happy to be alive. Waves of love consume us. We find no hatred – just love for all.
By Yusef A. Lateef

Let me begin by saying: my notions concerning voice in Autophysiopsychic music, to some, may border on the realm of speculation; however, I am suggesting that the door for research is open. To be specific: one researcher, Mr. Walter J. Ong, a University Professor of Humanities and Professor of Humanities in Psychiatry at Saint Louis University, Missouri, has said, and I quote:

"In various parts of the world, new methods of analysis have been developed whose conclusions reveal the limitations of the Anglo-American outlook we inherit"--end of quote.

I once asked the late Joe Jones the question:

"What was Lester Young’s philosophy concerning Autophysiopsychic music?"

He promptly replied with four words:

"Lester played his philosophy."

Now, frequently when musicians, who play Autophysiopsychic music, are talked about, they and their music are described in various terms. Some of the expressions, written off as metaphors, used to describe them are as follows: "he/she was cooking, they were burning last night, they had the pots on, he was intensely F-U-N-K-Y, his chops were together and so on."

Now, it is difficult to know the intentions of the people who use these expressions; however, intentionally or unintentionally, in many instances these descriptions are vulgar to say the least, inadequate and in fact, it is an injustice. It is conceivable, as it is, that some people use these terms due to their environmental conditioning, so consequently they are unaware that these expressions are inappropriate. At best, these kinds of expressions are a way of saying that the musician and his music be given no aesthetic or intellectual admiration. It could be that these expressions are inventions as the late James Baldwin has written, and I quote:

"Be careful of inventions; the invention describes you, and will certainly betray you." --end of quote.

On another level, in discussing a musician’s Autophysiopsychic presentation, we can, although it is not speech, talk about it as though it were a voice also, we can talk about "the individual" and about what we "hear" his/her music "saying".

Some listeners, those who are aware, even refer to some individuals as having "found their voice."

Though the musicians voice has become an unclear and controversial notion, I will try to show that we need the term. Voice will become a useful critical concept for the study of solos once we build up a foundation of analysis and application -- a foundation I seek to work on in this paper. I can make the term serviceable by distinguishing three kinds of voice: (1) AUDIBLE VOICE: how much do we hear the person as we listen to it (or how much does the person demand our attention as we listen)? (2) DRAMATIC VOICE: what kind of musician is implied in the music (and how vividly)? (3) ONE’S OWN VOICE: what is the relation of the music to the actual musician? Let me attempt to describe these senses of voice.

(1st) AUDIBLE VOICE: How much do we hear the person?

The distinguishing mark of good music is "the unique sound quality of voice somehow entangled in the tones and transmitted from the instrument for the ear of the imagination. Though music is literally sound, some sounds make us hear someone’s character.

Sounds with audible voice give us the sense of a sound coming from the whole being of the musician--; and they touch us--they seem to give us energy, or a sensation, rather than requiring energy to listen.

Perhaps the best example of audible voice is the absence of it. The classic examples tend to be music which does not hold your attention, i.e., inaudible voice. Although we hear it, it has no meaning. The best impression it can make on the ear, which includes the ear of the presentor and the listener is: "Wow! Listen to how much technique I have." Technique, no matter what its limitations, is to project the ethos, the personal character of the presentor. Valid presentors use their technique, only to project their character, their vast array of experiences, thoughts, feelings, concerns and ideas that are entombed in their brain’s memory--and more than that--I will say: they speak with their heart. It has been said that the heart is the seat of the intellect. And in the Bible we read:

"for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh" (MATHEW 12:34). And in the Holy Quran we read: "Aye! It is in the remembrance of God that hearts can find comfort" (Cha 13, 29th verse).

You see, there is a relationship between the valid presentor and his/her presentations . The unique factor is that these particular musicians are able to transform the events of their mind and heart into sound. They are able to manifest into sound that which is meaningful to themselves. They are not unlike elegant rational scientists--they only operate with deeply different grammars.

(2nd) DRAMATIC VOICE: What kind of musician is implied in the presentor (and how vividly)?

The sound of the music seems to tell us what kind of person is playing. We feel that we can hear their character or personality in that which they are presenting.

Obviously this dramatic dimension of the music usually comes from the qualities of the music. In such situations the music implies a character who produces those sounds. Just as there is no life without death, however unpredictable, so there is no music without implied character, however nondescript.

(3rd) ONE’S OWN VOICE: What is the relation of the music to the actual musician?

Some people speak of instrumentalist as having found their own voice. People use this common phraseology to mean that the musician has attained a distinctive profile that sets him/her off from others. We must remember that to attain one’s own profile is not easy. Miles Davis has said that it takes years to sound like yourself. This could be because the musical language we think of and experience as private ideas are in fact constituted through the voices of other musicians that echo in our listening experiences. Nevertheless, when some other musician’s ideological concept is internally persuasive for us and acknowledged by us, entirely different possibilities open up. Consequently, when a musician finds a profile that seems her’s/his they often take on a certain added assurance or authority.

As well, they are poetic--they are, through music, able to express their thoughts and feelings--and if they have lofty character and their thoughts are filled with appreciation and love for all--their music reflects their love, and if the listener listens intently they will hear and feel that love. The listener, moved to a frame of mind by the music, senses the character of the musician. The result is that the listener, in listening to the music, experiences a sense of pleasure which is only the musician’s character being communicated to the listener through the language of sound.

What I have postulated in the above is that even though Autophysiopsychic music is a grammar, which is not words, it serves as a voice which denotes character, which is the dramatic dimension of Autophysiopsychic music.

For example: the implied character in the music of the late Lester Young tells us that he was a person of humanistic aspirations and values. He expressed and brought joy to thousands of listeners throughout the world. When listening to his music your ear will tell you that his character was warm and sensitive. Trombonist, Dicky Wells, a Count Basie alumnus, maintained that Pres, as he was called, was a "beautiful person, full of (love), harmless. (He) did not bother anybody, loved everybody."--end of quote. Those who knew him will tell you that he was essentially a gentle soul, and I can verify that--he was a gentle soul. Pianist, Billy Taylor, claimed that Young’s "approach to everything he did in life was concerned with beauty." Of course I recognized the kind of person he was long before I met him in person. Through recordings, the sound of his told me what kind of person was performing. I could hear his character or personality in his message.

It seems that early in life he found a musical voice, which remained with him throughout his life. The point I am trying to make here is that the pathos--the way he caused you to feel when you listened to his music was the way he really was--if you felt joy--he felt joy--if you felt sadness--he felt sadness, etc. In other words, his music voice could never be divorced from his character.

Equally important were the timing and quality in his musical language, sometimes referred to as terminal junctures or intonation patterns. Above all, in this area, he was impeccable. He could treat notes so as to indicate assurance, by rapidly dropping the pitch, or indicate incompleteness by leveling the pitch in a manner which would suggest continuation, or when he thought it appropriate he would avoid traditional tones, by applying innovative fingerings, whereby he produced a new genre of sound textures. In conjunction with the sound textures that he introduced let me say that: as a tone language uses changes in pitch to indicate differences in the meanings of words--Lester used changes of texture, pitch and nuance, tempered by his immaterial self, to indicate differences in feelings or to put the audience into a certain frame of mind.

Another unique aspect of his music-voice was the way he voiced silence. It was powerful. (Listen to his recording of D.B. Blues and you will hear the powerful silence that I am referring to.) His silence was powerful because what he choose to present as sound was free of prattling. I never heard him produce idle or meaningless sounds. The elements of music, from his position, were only important when they contributed to his own feelings. His music-voice like his personality revealed his poetic and lyrical qualities to the listener. Those qualities of genius, which seem so natural,--which seldom surface in the Autophysiopsychic music community--he produced and emphasized consistently during his life time. He never sounded as though he was confronted with an ambivalence in deciding what was central to his message--always convincing, authentic, and the logos, the proof, or apparent proof of his artistry was always there, provided by the sound of his music itself, nurtured by the gentle soul that he was.

Finally, Lester found much more than a profile that seemed to be his. He was the purveyor of a theory, tradition, or discipline in which other tenor saxophonists have, in their turn, found a place. That is to say, he is in a position which we call transdiscursive, i.e., he produced the possibilities and the rules for the formation of other Lester Young’s, like: Charles Parker, Dexter Gordon, Stan Getz, Gene Ammons, Sonny Stitt, Zut Sims, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Ike Quebec, Wayne Shorter, Archie Shepp, Hidehiko Matsomoto etc.--all who were inspired and motivated--who followed the notion or qualities in his voice of music--those who sensed character, warmth, love, meaning, truth and deep feeling in his voice.


Ong, Walter J. Oralitty and Literacy. London: Methuen Press, 1987

Baldwin, James. Proceedings from the Twelfth & Thirteenth Annual Black Musicians’ Conferences. Amherst, Massachusetts: Fine Arts Center, Number 2, 1984- 1985

Elbow, Peter. What is "Voice" in a Text. Amberst, Massachusetts: Copycat Print Shop, 1988.

James, King. Holy Bible. London: Cambridge University Press.

Jazzforschung. Alcademische druck-U Verlagsanstalt. Austria: Notensatz, 1984.

Quran, Holy. Pub. Under the auspices of Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad,
Edited by Malik Ghulam Farid, Islam International Publications LTD. 1994.

* "Autophysiopsychic Music" (Music from one’s physical, mental and spiritual self).
by Yusef Abdul Lateef

Hippocrates, (460? - 377? B.C.) a Greek physician, in one of his lectures to an audience of medical men said: "Some people say that the heart is the organ with which we think and it feels pain and anxiety.1 It was the common understanding in those days that the soul, or consciousness, was located in the heart. For example, four hundred years later these familiar words appeared in the Christian Gospel according to Luke: "But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart."2

Today, many thoughtful men continue to debate the question, as they have over the centuries, not how is heart related to mind?, but how is brain related to mind? Dr. Wilder Penfield, a distinguished neurosurgeon, has catalogued a great body of information that has provided vast insight for us into the psychology of the mind.

Dr. William Feindel, a colleague of Dr. Penfield, has written: " ... the human brain is the most highly organized and complex structure in the universe. Made up of a dozen billion microscopic nerve-cell units interconnected by millions upon millions of conducting nerve-threads weaving incredibly intricate patterns, the brain, as an object of research, presents a defiant challenge to its own ingenuity."

There is absolutely no doubt that Dr. Feindel's observation has merit; however, on another level, comparable to the mind, the heart, also, is a most highly organized and complex structure, with its quadratic double pump, delivering blood low in oxygen and high in carbon dioxide to the right atrium (by two large veins, the venae cavae, and by the coronary sinus, on which the coronary veins converge), and simultaneously maintaining the regularity of the heart beat within the heart itself.

Consequently, when one reflects on the above, one reaches the conclusion that these are signs within Allah's creation which serve to inform us of His Divine Ingenuity, which are blessings for mankind. In the Holy Quran Allah says: "And He has pressed into service the things He has created for you in the earth, varying in colours. Surely, in that is a sign for a people who take heed." The point here is that: not only has Allah created the brain and the heart for the service of mankind -- as well, He has created mankind, varying in colors, for the service of all mankind.

He has created, also, the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth, no matter how highly organized or complex its structure, for the service of mankind. Also, Allah says in the Holy Quran: "And He has subjected to you whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth; all this is from Him. In that surely are signs for a people who reflect" (45:14).

Yes, man is headlong into subjecting the heavens and earth by exercising his penchant for high-tech by carrying out experiments in how to live on Mars (while we're having many difficulties living in peace here on earth), building new atom smashers, building weapons capable of mass destruction, etc.; while, on the other hand, there are, in the world, numerous demonstrations of nonlove. In fact, there is an epidemic of man abusing and killing himself and others through neglect of the needy and through the use and distribution of illegal drugs, daily. Elected officials are frequently caught misappropriating public funds, governments violate the rights of some of its citizens through inept, undemocratic laws, a variety of horrible crimes take place daily, Protestants are killing Catholics, Moslems are killing Moslems, Christians are killing Christians, etcetera. Moreover, it appears that a large portion of mankind is on the brink of a pit of fire. One problem, as I see it, is that there is an unbalance in man's application to what Allah has subjected to man in the heavens and the earth: too much emphasis is put on technology to the neglect of spiritual and intellectual vision, which is seated in the heart. When Allah says that: (He has subjected to man whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth), this certainly includes the heart of man. If man would develop his capacity to reason and visualize with his heart, then, many of mankind's problems would dissolve.

Many people are aware of this. On the six-o'clock news recently a newscaster asked a woman on the street in New York if she thought the Constitution of the United States was withstanding the test of time and if, in her opinion, is it still adequate? She replied, "There is nothing wrong with the Constitution, the problem is in the people's hearts." And the Holy Quran affirms this very clearly: "... They have hearts but they understand not therewith, and they have eyes but they see not therewith, and they have ears but they hear not therewith. They are like cattle, nay, they are even more astray. They are indeed quite heedless" (7:180).

The remainder of this paper will be concerned with ideas concerning the heart (be it the will of God).


Anything that hinders man's physical, moral or spiritual progress is a disease. Physical diseases or abnormalities are manifested in the physical self whereas, immorality (spiritual disease) is manifested in one's speech, actions, intentions or deeds -- of course only God knows one's intentions. However, for example: lying is a moral weakness or defect of faith which has its origin in the heart. This means mainly that the real application of the word "heart" is the spiritual and intellectual vision. Therefore, if a person's heart is free of disease he/she will not tell a lie intentionally nor will they say what is true insincerely. Actually, this condition refers to one who doesn't speak or act as a normal health person due to the disease of hypocrisy which is in their heart. The above condition is referred to in the following Quranic verse: "In their hearts was (is) a disease and Allah has increased their disease to them; and for them is a grievous punishment because they lied" (2:11). In the verse under comment the increase of hypocrisy is attributed to God, not because God increases it but because the increase results from disregard of His commands; also because it is God who finally dispenses the good and evil consequences of human actions. In the Holy Bible we read: "... for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart" (I. SAMUEL 16,7.)

Also, the Holy Prophet (who upon be the peace and blessings of God) has mentioned the following signs of hypocrisy: "When a hypocrite speaks, he lies; and when he makes a promise, he does not fulfill it; and when he is entrusted with anything, he acts dishonestly; and when he makes a contract, he breaks it; and when he engages in a dispute, he uses foul words"5 (Bukhari).


In the Holy Bible we read: "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life" (PROVERBS 4,23). Above I have said: Mainly the real application of the word "heart" is the spiritual and intellectual vision. Now, I refer back to this quote in order to briefly expound upon the idea that God has endowed believers with the capacity to perceive truth through their hearts, as well as through their eyes. In the Holy Quran we read: "... but Allah has endeared the faith to you and has made it look beautiful to your hearts, and He has made disbelief, wickedness and disobedience hateful to you. Such indeed are those who follow the right course" (49:8). And in the Holy Bible we read: "Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed" (ISAIAH 6,10).

On the contrary, the disbelievers are denied heart-vision because they feign virtues that they don't hold or possess and they follow their evil inclinations. They don't perceive with their hearts, they don't understand with their hearts, they don't realize that God can only be seen through the spiritual and intellectual vision of the heart. The Quran says, "Your God is One God, and as to those who believe not in the Hereafter, their hearts are strangers to truth, and they are full of pride" (16:23).


The Bible also speaks of heart-blindness: walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart" (Eph. 4:17 and 18).

In regards to the above issue, in Allah's final and Perfect Book, the Quran says: "Have they not traveled in the land, so that they may have hearts wherewith to understand, or ears wherewith to hear? For surely it is not the eyes that are blind, but blind are the hearts which are in the breast" (22:47). The above verse exhorts disbelievers to study the histories of and learn a lesson from the fate of those people who rejected the former Prophets. It is also clear from this verse that the dead, the blind and the deaf spoken of here and else-where in the Quran and the Bible are the spiritually blind, deaf and dead."


In the Holy Quran God says: "And Allah brought you forth from the wombs of your mothers while you knew nothing, and gave you ears and eyes and hearts that you might be grateful" (16:79). This verse explains to us that, to Allah, we have so much to be thankful for. In fact, we should be able to imagine every breath being a breath of gratitude to Allah, for the endless blessings that He bestows upon us. And His caring for us began when we were in our mother's wombs, when we knew nothing, when we were utterly helpless and without consciousness. Even after we were born, although we were in this world physically, there was a period of intellectual obscurity. Moreover, Allah is telling mankind in this verse that when a man is born, he is devoid of all kinds of knowledge but, God has endowed mankind with the faculties of hearing, sight and understanding; and, with the help of these God given faculties mankind gradually acquires knowledge of the physical world (all praise is to God). Man depends upon these divine gifts for the acquisition of material knowledge, but in the matter of spiritual knowledge heneeds divine guidance: divine guidance is from Allah alone. As stated above, "the seat of spiritual vision is in the heart;" therefore, it seems that spiritual attainment is experienced in the heart. In the Quran Allah says: "And Allah has made it only as glad tidings for you and that your hearts might be at rest thereby; and help comes from Allah alone, the Mighty, the Wise" (3:127).

In the name of God the Most Gracious the Most Merciful

THE HEART (a poem):

O Allah alone, the Mighty, the Wise
Please -- never seal up my heart so that I should not hear
O Allah alone, the Mighty, the Wise
Please -- inoculate me against disease of the heart
O Allah alone, the Mighty, the Wise
Please -- let not my heart become hardened like stone
O Allah alone, the Mighty, the Wise
May love, for You always, gush forth from my heart, like a
gentle stream
O Allah alone, the Mighty, the Wise
I humble my heart for fear of You
O Allah alone, the Mighty, the Wise
Please -- never confound my heart so that I may always
O Allah alone, the Mighty, the Wise
May my heart always believe in the Hereafter
And may I always earn Your favor

1. The Mystery of the Mind, by Wilder Penfield, 0.M., Litt. B., M.D., F.R.S.
Princeton University Press (Princeton, New Jersey), 1978, p. 7.

2. The Holy Bible. Cambridge University Press
St.Luke: 2nd Chapter, 19th Verse (and subsequent Biblical quotes).

3. The Mystery of the Mind, by Wilder Penfield
Introduction: p. XIV.

4. The Holy Quran
The Oriental and Religious Corporation, Ltd.
Al-Kahl: 16th Chapter, 14th Verse (and subsequent Quaranic quotes).

5. Bukhari (one who collected sayings of the Holy Prophet, S.A.W.).


by Yusef A. Lateef

meditation no. 1

Where are the protectors of the poor, the widows and the orphans?

meditation no. 2
"Have you seen your hands in a dream?"

meditation no. 3
flow like the Sabine while the Oak
not unlike the Labium of a flower
or a night in Ibadan
at Peace
Identic sounds of the heart
or a night in Sadowa
uttered by Taal

meditation no. 4
"Woman is the tender part of man”

meditation no. 5
Sunset disappears, only faint traces
of light remain, fading rapidly
into nights domain.

meditation no. 6
How beautiful the leaves become just before they die.

meditation no. 7
Compassion is power.

meditation no. 8
I've heard the sound of rain
throughout the night,
between God given periods
of wake and sleep.

meditation no. 9
My Creator causes me to weep.

meditation no. I0 next life...

meditation no. 11
Earth. flowers, trees. wind, sun, moon,
sky, planets and beyond -

meditation no. 12
Perhaps this life will become a dream
when the next life becomes a reality.

meditation no. 13
Sounds before silence.

meditation no. 14
I've watched snowflakes disappear,
I've felt the moving wind,
and I've heard love's voice.

meditation no. I5
And I've heard the sounds of those who loved me.

meditation no. I6
"The soul of this life becomes the body of the next life."

∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞

This poem by Yusef Lateef is from the liner notes of
his CD entitled "Meditations," which is available here.