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May 7, 2006

Space Is The Place

-- by Dave Johnson

How many of you know about Sun Ra? (At this point a select few of you understand more about me than I should let on.)

Sun Ra was a musical genius. A lot of people I know won't listen to any of my Sun Ra recordings and look at me funny. My wife just walked by and said "Whatever volume you have Sun Ra at is too loud." Please click this. But then click this, too. And this. And this. THEN you'll start to get it. (These are from a later incarnation of the Arkestra, but the sounds are Sun Ra's sounds.)

Space Is The Place cover

Some say Sun Ra was born, others say he arrived.

Sun Ra was born on the planet Saturn, ages ago, and spent some time on Earth using the power of music to demonstrate the virtues of discipline and harmony to members of this planet.
I found this on YouTube and it's GREAT!:

But wait, there's more...

I once saw Sun Ra and the full Arkestra incuding dancers. (This was on the same night as Miles Davis performing Bitches Brew.)

Sun Ra's appearances at the Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festivals of the early seventies are legendary. His explosive avant-jazz Arkestra hit the stage in a riot of color and sound that made a cosmic connection with his first major American festival audience and won him a whole new following. The Sun Ra Trilogy is produced by John Sinclair for Big Chief Productions in agreement with the late Alton Abraham.

Sun Ra and the Arkestra at Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival
Then Sun Ra and his Arkestra came on. The band raged like a band of stampeding elephants � a heavy beat with horns wailing above the cacophony. After a few minutes the music forced me to stand up to witness the band that made such wonderful noise. Then I got the visual assault with the flowing robes and wild hats and intergalactic dancers.
In the late 80's or early 90's I saw Sun Ra perform at the Catalyst in Santa Cruz. This was a "big band" performance, with Sun Ra at a piano, and a big band with podiums, all wearing fezes, performing classic big band-style tunes. Except in the middle of some of the tunes all of a sudden the whole thing would go crazy, and you'd wonder for a minute if someone put LSD in your drink or soething, and then after 32 bars or so it would settle down back into big band, and people would be looking at each other wondering, "did you hear that?"

Here someone synched the Sun Ra recording of Pink Elephants to a cartoon of the same tune.

Here's another video I found on You Tube. Good tune, not-so-great video. Tiny Pyramids.

Another video clip, of the post-Sun Ra Arkestra I think:

Planet Sun Ra
Sun Ra: Stranger from Outer Space
The Outer Space Employment Agency
The Cosmic-Myth Equations of Sun Ra - A M.A. thesis on Sun Ra

Researching this I discovered that there is a Space Is The Place film! Here is the intro to the film:
It's after the end of the world. Don't you know that yet?
It's after the end of the world. Don't you know that yet?
It's after the end of the world. Don't you know that yet?

Post inspired by Crooks and Liars - John Coltrane and More Coltrane

I'll tell you about being at Woodstock another day.

Posted by Dave Johnson at May 7, 2006 2:39 PM

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Used to catch Sun Ra and his Arkestra at the Cubby Bear in Chicago (across from Wrigley).

Crazy, and lots of fun. Space was most definitely the place.

I hope Sun Ra is resting with his Saturnial forefathers in the luxury and splendor he so richly deserves.

Posted by: Night Owl [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 7, 2006 5:08 PM

Not so crazy for a Saturnian.

Posted by: MJ [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 8, 2006 5:05 AM

Trackbacks wouldn't accept my ping, so I've linked in with the URL link to my related posting, "Seeing the Sun: Celestial Humanality 101" which was going to have the TB excerpt

one short humble sermon to that Wife of the Delicate Ears, and to those Friends With No Ears At All, and to all of those out there in googling searchspace who may see but still not hear The Living Myth, and do so at their own soul's peril.
enjoy :)

Posted by: mrG [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 8, 2006 9:04 AM

Dave, post a discography or email me one. I've heard only scattered things and it seems very diverse (some sounds like Stravinsky, even) and somewhat uneven.

Posted by: John Emerson [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 9, 2006 10:21 AM

I saw Sun Ra in the basement of a Baptist Church in Philadelphia in the early 1970s, then later at a club in Berkeley in (I think) 1976. The church experience was the more memorable, and it sounds a lot like it was similar to what you saw in Ann Arbor, heavy percussion overlaid with saxaphones, but the dancers are what stands out most in memory. I'm pretty sure is was based on the Santeria Rooster dance; I remember wondering if the dancers actually had joints, or if they'd somehow converted themselves into something more fluid and flexible than muscle and bone...

Posted by: James Killus [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 12, 2006 12:28 PM

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