Monday, October 02, 2006

Sun Ra Archives Discovered

Salvaged from a former residence of Sun Ra, music critc John Corbett, compiled an archive on display in Chicago, Sun Ra's hometown.

"But what remained was a treasure trove of Sun Ra ephemera: album art, recordings, writings, ledgers, and scraps of paper like ticket stubs and gig flyers. It’s this material that forms the bulk of an astonishing exhibit that opens Sunday at the Hyde Park Art Center, “Pathways to Unknown Worlds: Sun Ra, El Saturn & Chicago’s Afro-Futurist Underground, 1954-68.”

Not only was Sun Ra an artist musically, but he was an artist spiritually. He remade music and he remade his own identity. Like other slaves, he changed his government name, to reflect his spiritual and philosophical goals/beliefs. I think Sun Ra is a completely overlooked musician and although he influenced many musicians, his influence has not been fully accounted. I don't think there is an entire book written about him.

The beat generation and later the psychedelic movement adopted Sun Ra to a degree. Sun Ra was from Saturn and incorporated a spiritual philosophy into his music. In 1971, Sun Ra was an artist-in-residence with a reading list that included Egyptian Book of The Dead, The Two Babylons, The Book of Oahspe, and the study of Egyptian hieroglyphs and African American folklore. I remember at one point in the 90's that many African Americans were adorpting Egyptian motifs in their clothing and music, and the fashion statement seemed to bode a less materialistic bent in pop music, which has been short lived. Sun Ra ran his band like a commune, with ideals of magic, space travel and high self esteem for his band and for the betterment of the human condition.

Sun Ra toured with Sonic Youth near the end of his life.

He may have been one of the most visionary and profound artists to have performed. I hope this new cache of artifacts will inspire someone to write the definitive book about Sun Ra's music and philosophy.

3 comments:

Axiomatics said...

Great link, Candy Minx. Unbelievable story about the Sun Ra archives/ artifacts (thankfully rescued)

Check out 'Space is the Place: the Lives and Times of Sun Ra' by John Szwed published by Pantheon Books (1997)

Candy Minx said...

Yes, I will thank you very much. Can you imagine a Sun Ra movie? That would be cool because one could have a whole sequence of his transforming or coming from Saturn!

Anonymous said...

I saw a "home-movie" of Sun Ra's in my Writing for Artists class. I have to admit that I had absolutely NO idea what was going on. There was a ruin of some sort, some wind, some hottish girls with attractive in the wind clothing, and of course, Sun Ra, also in attractive in the wind clothing. They/he would wander to say...a ruin doorframe and pose dramatically as the wind blew their clothes about. Sunra spent an enormous amount of time looking off in the distance looking noble. I suspect hallucinogens.