So, i just continued my research and writing about Sun Ra. Found some new sources and resources, and found myself asking more questions…
More mid-week, enjoy.
Sounds Fly: Music Writing
by Steven James Pratt et al.
Sun Ra Seed Transmissions: Sun Ra and Dr. Timothy Leary are similar cats working in some different mediums, but may have more in common than first meets the mind, the DJ thinks that Sun Ra’s concert for the Comet Kahoutek was another space-time experiment/event (resulting in an audio recording) in synchrony with Timothy Leary and Robert Anton Wilson’s experiences in cosmic telepathy – a recurring theme through Sun Ra’s work too, explicitly and interpreted musically.
I was listening to Sun Ra music when i first encountered Cosmic Trigger around 1996, and even made DJ mixes combining Sun Ra music and Timothy Leary words and gave them strange titles as the magician started experimenting with ideas from the book as interpreted through music. All in my bedroom, reading books only a handful of people had read and making strange experimental music with turntables, a reel to reel tape machine and a microphone.
“END OF THE WAR GAME.” William S. Burroughs. Electronic Revolution. Last words.
“But you got
Any Sun Ra records or DuBois books?
You gon die
With the murderers
& crooks.” Amiri Baraka. ´Words from Sun Ra.
A number of varied tribal cultures throughout human history have composed devices to track the Sun, Moon, and other celestial phenomena. Some mapped the seasonal changes, calculated calendars and some recorded solar and lunar eclipses, asteroid and meteorite showers. Many, structures on planet earth such as the Egyptian and Mayan pyramids show evidence of intelligent design and precise alignments to cosmological processes: sunrises, Solstices, moonrises, Equinoxes, moon sets, comet cycles etc. But what of the ancient languages of chanting, singing, dancing and spoken word used within ritual spaces opened up by shamans and wizards of harmony? When I wonder about a cosmological and/or celestial music i find the work of Sun Ra and his arkestra “key” to non-simultaneously apprehending the BIG question’s about spacetime “outer-space vs. Inner-space” and the difficulties to communicating sensible messages about these things – things way out there – beyond language, pushing at the furry edge of the infinite donut omni-verse like a pair of puckered lips anticipating their double.
The Music, myth and magic of Sun Ra has enriched humanity with a cornucopia of experimental research data and psycho-archeological investigations into the social, psychological conditions and spaces we inhabit. I gravitate towards my ideal Sun Ra system – or network of ideas, as a sort of planet, or cluster of planets and gasses representing my thoughts and experiences, fly agaric 23 from another star system, this is how i would like to view the life and music of Sun Ra, by joining his cosmic-philosophy and ritual musical experiments together and looking at the from an outer-space view.
I first encountered Sun Ra as a curious disk jockey – having spent thirteen years coordinating sections of SUN RA music into some of my DJ sets and musical recipes. I give credit to both Kevin Gator and Keith Hopewell (Part2) for igniting my initial interest in Sunny, Afro-cosmic jazz and Black music culture in my early 20’s. For me a combination of RAMMELLZEE’s Iconic Treatise on Afro-Futurism mixed with Kodwo Eshun’s book “More Brilliant Than The Sun: Adventures in Black Sonic Fiction” plus the electronic induced revolution taking root in the 1990’s around the UK., spearheaded by many African-English DJ’s, producers, artists and some live musicians during the 90’s and into the new millennium, mostly from low income areas of urban Britain, this electronic revolution – sparked off by both drugs and computers in the hands of the a few creative people who used them to manufacture their own music, culture and scene, independent of the major labels and trappings of the vulture capitalist entertainment industry, making independent record labels, and locally supported enterprises.
And although the music hardly resembles anything SUN RA produced, the cultural activities surrounding the underground UK rave scene of the 1990’s and the SUN RA SYSTEM meet, in me, and the memes oozing out from both of these musical phenomena have many criss-crossings that, in the UK – writers such as Kodwo and Simon Reynolds have documented. In the swirling blackness of audio SPACE the wisdom of SUN RA can reignite the humanistic and scholarly traits to SUN RA SYSTEM, and cascade into a new musical congress: musical beings and walking encyclopedia’s of the cosmic wisdom of the spheres.
“To the makers of music — all worlds, all times” Engraved upon the Gold Disk bolted onto Voyager 1, now estimated to be over fourteen billion miles away.
As DJ Fly Agaric 23, i have my own biases and favourite myth stories – i guess a combination of the kind of Directed Panspermia theory devised by Sir Francis Crick with the Cosmic Schmuck principle of Dr. Robert Anton Wilson, inspired, in a musical and aesthetic sense, by SUN RA, whom i consider a balanced mixture between mask and anti-mask, self and anti-self, mythical being and historical personae. As a DJ it seems somewhat easier to escape into a cosmic pseudonym of galactic proportions, a great name, simply spinning joyful space noise from magical disks. Without theoretical explanations or historical context in the literary sense, it is easy to get lost in space, but SUN RA shows how to bind timespace and to bind space-time and make sense of them with new maps as recordings and performaces as metaphors.
As Acrylic Figa – another alter-ego of DJ Fly Agaric 23, i began to write and conduct literary based research into language and poetry, pursuing a 5 year long study of another SYSTEM of information called Maybe logic, as defined and described by Dr. Robert Anton Wilson, whom in my estimation voices the scientific philosophical counter-melody to the Joyful Sun Ra sounds and loads the Kosmic Trigger Figures and fires the fugues in/out of the heed.
I guess it would be through the trans-humanist and trans-personal psychology, and through the exo-psychology, exo-biology and cyberpunk ontology language of Dr. Timothy Leary that reads and feels to me, like the experience of listening and watching SUN RA and his Arkestra at play/work. Tim also had a cosmological/neurological “spacetime” philosophy including an exit strategy and space migration SYSTEM including relativity, in effect translating fields of scientific and humanitarian study into new languages, condensed and indexed exo-philosophy and trans-humanism, in accord with the new data, the research from outer space exploration and inner neuron-space exploration in 2009.
The equation “Space Migration plus intelligence squared equals life extension”, developed and intuited by Dr. Leary could be a helpful gloss or another lens through which to view the Sun Ra Myth Science SYSTEM and other cosmological attenuated music such as that of John and Alice Coltrane, and the modern, free and “out” jazz explorations that bloomed throughout the explorative 60’s parallel with the NASA space programe.
“Maybe it’s nothing
Maybe it’s nothing
What? What? Oh” — Sun Ra. Revolution 9.
A SYSTEM to mean a system internetwork of interacting sub/disciplines, a nodal cluster of disciplines from across a broad range of cultural spaces and epochs, in Sun Ra, Leary and Wilson we might highlight the following recognized academic spheres of scholarship and the ability to connect historical individual and communal experience together, in TIME. History; cultural studies and gender studies; philosophy, aesthetics and semiotics; ethnology and cultural anthropology; archeology and prehistory; psychology and sociology; physiology and neuroscience; acoustics and psycho acoustics; computer/information sciences, theology, trans humanism, space migration, intelligence increase.
Add together the encyclopedic genius of John Sinclair, Amiri Baraka and other living cultural critics and collaborators of RA and you have a tidal force for cultural change crashing down and around you from all quarters, sweeping you up off your feet into the neurological torrent of myth/music and healing tones for motherfuckers too busy talkin shit on telephones to hear the future.
“The aim of this project is to build up a language in which certain falsifications inherit in all existing western languages will be made incapable of formulation. The follow-falsifications to be deleted from the proposed language.” William S. Burroughs. The Electronic Revolution. P. 33.
Reshaping and juxtaposing 10001 songs/texts/memes together into the SYSTEM, radiating an original and coherent unity, like that of a whirling galaxy or human cell cluster whose branches of multiple meaning are a function of the experimental formulae and Futurist, Dada surprise donut coating.
Remy De Gourmont the great French spaceman and in particular his principle of the “disassociation of ideas”, seems to describe the peculiar perception of no normal sequence of events in SUN RA´s musical journey. Light and dark, tonal and atonal, asymmetrical orchestrations mixed, photons and electrons dancing – the push and pull of TIME – sucked through and spat out into acoustic spaces of euphony. Yes. The name game turns and the BE Bop Kabbalah begins, cypher sounds flowing like electricity, exploring the infinite combinations and ways to say something, life, love, melody, memory, yes.
The Tale of the Tribe might hint at A Tale of an Ethnic Group, as Ethnic Group and Tribe are somewhat interchangeable terms, in which case we have a complete system of tribal wisdom wrapped up in SUN RA and his Joyful Noise. A perfected model and SYSTEM of language, musical mappings, ritual dance, piercing poetry, sincere scholarship and heart stopping humour with which to compare and analyse other ART, from other cultures and regions of the planet earth, and to consider the limited resources and challenges overcome by the great Black American pioneers of this music and language the world has come to realize, was some of the gretest musical expressions of human life and the bombardment of information, light and sound that we all encounter and filter through our brain-body systems, ever created, in my humble opinion.
In his books “Sacred Drift” and “Irish Soma”, Peter Lamborn Wilson has extended the rather deserted landscape of intelligent Afro/Celtic historical, ethnographical research and brings a basis for further mythological, folkloric and ceremonial research into these furtive areas of post colonial humanities. Finnegans Wake by James Joyce – who listened to Louis Armstrong and loved Blues and Jazz music – provided another literary parallel to the SUN RA experience. History, etymology, cosmology, enthnocentricity, eccentricity, humour, counterpoint, numerology, alienation, escape from the socially sactioned norms’ are the major points of intersection i perceive between RA and Joyce and Joyous Noyse. Cheryl Herr, of the University of Iowa writes…
“As First in America and then across the water, an affiliation between Irishness and blackness was honed in the Afro-Hibernian crucible of the minstrel show where Paddy and Sambo interchanged roles, created a matrix of longing that encompassed both the Irish lament and the Delta blues (“Irish Mornings” J.J, F.W.p50-53).
John Sinclair forwarded the memes of cultural transformation through unity of music and poetry and joyful noise, and has remained a literay and poetic gauge by which to help measure music, musicians and the cultural impact of music in the west, in particular the Black American heritage of Blues and Jazz in all it’s varied forms. With the violence, tragedy and struggle woven in and detailed along with the triumph, epiphany and beauty of this musical revolution.
John Sinclair, Amiri Baraka and a frightfully small handful of other music writers and musicological poets and artists continue the current of balanced social feedback based upon extensive experience and practice in-the field working with the Sun RA family and band, for over 40 years in John´s unique case. 40 years yo!
Fela Kuti, John Coltrane, James Brown, Sun Ra, Robert Johnson, Theolonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Charles Mingus, these Jazz and Bluesmen re-plastered the face of modern culture, but have been almost whitewashed from censored history, i think, when viewed in comparison with other great American hero’s, honoured with institutes, statues, foundations and schools of music.
But difference between music for social change, equality, intelligence and community cohesion compared with modern POP music – that manufactured mush of low information – for the most part another commodity for financial profit, titillation, celebrity kicks, extortion, sedation, cultural manipulation and enthnocentric racial and sexually exploitative purposes. The message becomes clearer now thanks to a few underground writers and critics still able to improvise their own thoughts and actions in a free way, breaking rules with a disciplined spirit of experimentation and knowledge and challenge the orthodox opinions about culture, heritage and humanity. Like that which Sun Ra radiated, the search for knowledge, trying new things and seeing the world through new eyes – questioning everything, especially authority.
“Now whatever you may be you are not an “animal”, you are not a “body”, because these are verbal labels. The IS of identity always carries the assignment of permanent condition. To stay that way. All name calling presupposes the IS of identity. This concept is unnecessary in a hieroglyphic language like ancient Egyptian and in fact frequently omitted. No need to say the sun IS in the sky, sun in sky suffices. .” William S. Burroughs. The Electronic Revolution. P. 33.
I would like to raise some questions in conjunction with SUN RA that i feel may lead to a better cohesive strategy within the new emerging global tribal communities, both the community in and around Birmingham, England – where i grew up – and the communities i lived and worked amidst in America and in Europe, and towards a new global cultural meeting including everybody to attempt something approaching the best face we can put on the notion of democracy.
- * 1. Identity and the Individual relationship with the state. Who and where are you?
- * 2. The language of class warfare? Class and language and the relationships to culture?
- * 3. Mythological Archetypes and Cultural Memes, define yours.
- * 4. Race, sex, ethnicity and history in whose language, script and code?
- * 5. Tribal bonds, ceremonies, rituals and group communication activities, defined?
- * 6. Who owns and who issues the means to distribution of cultural language and information?
- * 7. How do cultural identities become so, the individual and state entity, and the alien?
- * 8. What is your tale of the tribe, can you describe another?
- * 9. How does joyful noise and music help communicate the tale of the ethnic group´s?
A few minutes spent reading into the life of Sonny Blount, and his transformation into Sun Ra will inform the reader about the social struggles, trials and ordeals he endured both physiological and psychological, that so many African American Jazzmen encountered, being on the front line of the violent and brutal assault on culture during the Nazi like medieval methods for social correction incorporating inhumane’ punishment throughout the birthing of Jazz and Blues i n the United States. The openly racist targeting of Black artists, especially of the jazz persuasion outlines one of the unbearable pressures looming over many of these musical geniuses and cultural iconoclasts – some drugs, poverty, family, health, geographical locale’, finances etc. It is against this backdrop of a Tsarist like tyranny and oppression of the creative and free individualism that defines ART in human beings, and against the constant struggle to get out from under the boot of ignorant authority that SUN RA bursts onto the world scene, and considering the racist historical period that he lived through he achieves a remarkable and exemplary transformation of the negative forces of hatred, intolerance, bitterness and perpetual warfare he witnessed – into a joyful noise of forgiveness – wisdom poetry and a new language of new beginnings, and moving on into the future – the creation of a musical ark upon which humanity can break free from any shackles and re-balance the equation once more, taking into consideration the other planets and dark star clusters, the great cosmos and outer galaxies, the void, the gas.
But there is no escape from himself, Sun Ra confronts the daily myth with the openness and sincerity of a Zen Monk, with adequate humour, repose, performance prowess – blurring the line between how your living and how your performing – making joyful noise and music his life blood and soul food – total communication and total immersion within the sound-scape realities and so becoming, overtime, through consistency of freedom: the physical embodiment of the sound, the poly-rhythm and melody. Reverse the process and you listen back to the music of Sun Ra and he lives within the music in a special and unique kind of way, the sound of disembodied shadows of a former world. Right there! in those spaces, yes.
“With regard to jazz, the l.p brought many changes, such as the cult of “real cool drool,” because greatly increased length of a single side of a disk meant that the jazz band could really have a long and casual chat among its instruments. – Marshall McLuhan. Understanding Media. P.282.
Sun Ra represented a 21st century being, living his life as though in far in the future, like in the world of Castalia created by Herman Hesse in the classic book Magister Ludi: The Glass Bead Game, where a kind of musical Chess language is performed as art over long periods of time, long enough to begin registering the movements of the cosmos. Sunny was not only living this way, but all the time composing, arranging, writing, radiating his swinging rhythm, melody, syncopation for the black nation.
Crafting tools for humanity to steer themselves and spaceship earth through the unknown black mass of probabilities ahead of us, swirling about us in all directions like helium, bringing a mischievious smile to every face connected to ears that can listen to the creeping wonder and mystical surprise of cheeky chops, menacing changes, violent waves of percussion, battering of drum heads all pouring out into space – all-at-once – intertwined and entangled bits of the totality, bits probably caught in your ear for a split second a split quarter note lingers, but TIME takes its course and winds down to a pulse, a base, a foundation.The Base, yes.
“This language will be a tonal language like Chinese, it will also have a hieroglyphic script as pictorial as possible without being to cumbersome or difficult to write. This language will give one option of silence. When not talking, the user of this language can take in the silent images of the written, pictorial and symbol languages.” W.S.B. TER. P 35.
Some sources and resources:
“Sun Ra visits planet Earth” John Sinclair. Its All Good. A John Sinclair Reader. Headpress 2008
Cyberpunks and Cyberfreedom. Dr. Timothy Leary. Ronin.
Word From Sun Ra. Amiri Baraka. Blacklistedjournalist. 2001.
The Illuminati Papers. Dr. Robert Anton Wilson. Ronin Press.
Understanding Media. Marshall McLuhan. University of Toronto Press.
Blue Notes, from Joyce to Jarman. Cheryl Herr. University of Iowa.
Ploughing the Clouds. The Search for Irish Soma. Peter Lamborn Wilson. Citylights Books.
Sacred Drift. Essays are the margin of Islam. Peter Lamborn Wilson. Citylights Books.
Rémy de Gourmont (1858-1915). French essayist, novelist, poet, playwright and philosopher.
“More Brilliant Than The Sun: Adventures in Black Sonic Fiction”. Kodwo Eshun. Quartet Books.