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The Sun Ra Quilt of Joy
March 7, 2009 8:04 PM   Subscribe

The Sun Ra Quilt of Joy
posted by Joe Beese (28 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well, I'm not sure my time permits my scanning all of my Sun Ra album covers and sending them in, but I have to say, the Quilt of my Joyful life would not be the same were it not for the ten times I was privileged to be in the company of Sun Ra and his fellow musicians. Each performance was different, and each one was intense and transporting. Long may he live.
posted by kozad at 8:34 PM on March 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


Am I the only one who visualized an ornate ultra-funky quilt with iridescent lightning bolts, lots of glittery star-scape panels, gold lame pyramids, weird tassels and rainbows everywhere? A quilt of many colors, if you will. I'm picturing a quilt large enough for four California King beds pushed together. A quilt that's still washable. You know, for when it gets too funky.
posted by loquacious at 8:49 PM on March 7, 2009 [6 favorites]


Which brings up the question: what IS too funky?
posted by Severian at 9:16 PM on March 7, 2009


Which brings up the question: what IS too funky?

The wet space mumu that George Clinton forgot was balled up behind his couch.
posted by codswallop at 9:20 PM on March 7, 2009


The quilt-link homepage also has cool Ra-related links and photo galleries, etc.

If anyone's interested in Ra's massive, intergalactic discography (completist-fanatics may have this), here are some useful links: one, two, three.

Two Ra-related books: this and this.
posted by ornate insect at 9:38 PM on March 7, 2009


From the "homepage" link in my post above, see especially Ra at the Library of Congress.
posted by ornate insect at 9:43 PM on March 7, 2009


I'm aching to be able to listen to some Sun in a social setting. That's probably never going to happen.
posted by Flex1970 at 10:03 PM on March 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Too cool. Great post, thanks.
posted by everichon at 10:30 PM on March 7, 2009


I'm aching to be able to listen to some Sun in a social setting. That's probably never going to happen.

You aren't hanging out with enough avant-garde bassoonists.
posted by 5imian at 10:34 PM on March 7, 2009


Totally recommend the Szwed book.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:35 PM on March 7, 2009


YES WE [SPACE] CAN
posted by humannaire at 10:35 PM on March 7, 2009


Nice companion post to the post about the NASA project to find new planets.
posted by fuq at 10:43 PM on March 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yes, yes, everyone posting here is too cool, but a Sun Ra concert was an experience that while not quite defies description but let's see, if you had a time machine and brought forward a very young Arnold Schönberg, gave him massive doses of acid and a trip to the ISS his compositions would begin to approach the deeply cacophonous coolness of this visitor from another planet.

kozad, wow 10 shows! Do you get flashbacks?
posted by sammyo at 11:20 PM on March 7, 2009


In the spirit of serendipity, I have been re-re-introduced to Sun Ra, and through this very blue website, no less. It was through this article on "afro-black mythology" that once again wound me into the intensely well-studied and gorgeously realized world of Sun Ra. Yes, he's crazy, but he's also smarter and more of a musician than anyone you are likely to meet in your lifetime, and worth listening to, sane or not, in ways that will always reward the careful listener.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:32 PM on March 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


It is good, on a grim night, to know that space is still the place.
posted by paultopia at 12:10 AM on March 8, 2009


I have this record, and I LOVE IT.

SPACE TIMPANI!

I would never have listened to jazz if I hadn't been in the back of the library one day eleven years ago cataloguing the obscurities that we'd never gotten around to and stumbled upon a bunch of his stuff. This led to Coltrane, Coltrane to Duke, and beyond. Thank Jupiter and Saturn that this man came to Earth.

Here, go watch this and be transported. You knew Earth was getting boring anyhow.

Space Is The Place (1974)

[or, if you prefer something ever-so-slightly more 'coherent':]

Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise (1980)

This man had a commune in Philadelphia for decades. He coerced people into living with him. He made them wear costumes and enact strange rituals in public. He elicited their allegiance to the alleged fact that he was from the planet Saturn, and demanded of them that they acknowledge this publicly.

In short, Sun Ra had a religious cult. Only instead of killing people, or drinking Kool-Aid, or committing mass suicide in preparation for some comet flyby, or trying to take over society through covert operations and all-out extortion of members ... Sun Ra's cult played jazz. They played jazz constantly, they played jazz with determination and fervor, and they played jazz in hats made of tin foil, sequins, duct tape, and purple rayon.

When it comes down, I think Sun Ra got it better than most people do. He really was not as far out as all that - or rather, he was saying something more down-to-earth than those of us that are down ON the earth usually can hear. For example: Sun Ra wasn't actually a huge proponent of so-called 'free jazz' - he liked freedom, and he liked his musicians to be free in their music to express themselves, but he was constantly reminding them that freedom is nothing if not grounded by discipline. Sun Ra left no stone unorbited and he never met a planet he didn't dig.
posted by koeselitz at 12:54 AM on March 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


koeselitz: in my understanding of free jazz, It is the creative form that is free, more than the players. Sometimes this requires an exceptional amount of discipline to realize the music's freedom.

It is nice to see people try to visually archive his output, I hope that someday some similar project happens with the noise scene, the likes of Merzbow, the Haters, and Daniel Menche among others are extremely prolific, and quite creative with packaging (for one example among the many I could list, rumor has it that one haters release had no recorded content, it was simply a cotton ball glued to a piece of cardboard, with instructions printed on the cardboard to hold the flat surface tight against the ear and rub the cotton).
posted by idiopath at 4:00 AM on March 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sun Ra came from Outer Space to save Humanity. That's why next month I'll hide Sun Ra eggs in the park for little children to find.

Space is the place. Miss you Sun Ra!
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:03 AM on March 8, 2009


If the scans must be 720 dpi and 500 pixels wide, does that mean that all Sun Ra records are 1.44 inches in diameter?
posted by alexei at 5:43 AM on March 8, 2009


I gave up on Space is the Place about half way through, but thanks anyway for the link koeselitz. The song "If you find Earth boring," which was a recurrent theme in the film, was itself boring. And pedestrian, and very bound to its time - I can easily imagine it being played on the Mister Rodgers Show, on one of his field trips. I am glad I do not live in the 1970s anymore.
posted by Meatbomb at 6:20 AM on March 8, 2009


Mr. Rogers. I loved the Seventies. I got to see Sun Ra, Pharoah Sanders, and Rahsaan Roland Kirk play live many times. Charlie Mingus, Cecil Taylor, the Mahavishnu Orchestra...lots of good memories. Now I listen to pop again (Beck, Sigur Ros, Natacha Atlas and other Middle Eastern/North African stuff), but I fell into jazz so hard in the 70's I didn't even hear Dark Side of the Moon until the 80's.
posted by kozad at 8:24 AM on March 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Outer Spaceways Inc." boring?? I want to know what planet you are from, Meatbomb. (wink)

Sun Ra rules. A lot. As if y'all didn't know already.

And some of these comments are making me realize what my boyfriend's dream job should be. "Musical archivist." He is really obsessed with when and why things go out of print and get revived, and he has the OCD cataloging habits of a library page, complete with homemade databases for his private use and convenience. Hm...
posted by ifjuly at 9:05 AM on March 8, 2009


Am I the only one who visualized an ornate ultra-funky quilt with iridescent lightning bolts, lots of glittery star-scape panels, gold lame pyramids, weird tassels and rainbows everywhere?

Nope.

But a Sun Ra album cover quilt is good, too.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 9:20 AM on March 8, 2009


Oh, SUN Ra. I thought we were all talking about this guy.
posted by Foam Pants at 11:50 AM on March 8, 2009


Sun Ra voted for Reagan--twice.

(something to think about as we build our little hagiography here on the blue...)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:08 PM on March 8, 2009


Sun Ra voted for Reagan--twice.

"Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes."
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 12:59 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sun Ra voted for Reagan--twice.

Yeah that's b/c Ron and Nancy were big Sun Ra fans, and used to have the Arkestra perform at the White House regularly.
posted by ornate insect at 1:35 PM on March 9, 2009


And because in many ways Sonny was essentially conservative. He staunchly resisted feminism and broadening social roles of women and was vigorously homophobic his entire life.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:53 AM on March 10, 2009


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