Author Essays, Interviews, and Excerpts, Books for the News

Videoblog: Sun Ra at 100

May 22, 2014, is Sun Ra’s centennial—the day the otherworldly interstellar traveler, cosmic philosopher, and avant-jazz musician would have turned 100, if he hadn’t been returned to an “Angel Race” (“I am not of this Earth.”) from the planet Saturn when he died in 1993. Sun Ra, along with his Arkestra, was a pioneering voice of afrofuturism, a fan of the improvised manifesto in music and verse, and a prolific (and versatile—his compositions mastered, then undermined, then regenerated almost every form of that very American medium: jazz) artist and performer. We are *lucky* enough to publish (or distribute) four books that touch on his contributions to twentieth-century culture, including three edited by Sun Ra curator-archivists John Corbett, Anthony Elms, and Terri Kapsalis—The Wisdom of Sun Ra: Sun Ra’s Polemical Broadsheets and Streetcorner Leaflets; Traveling the Spaceways: Sun Ra, the Astro Black, and Other Solar Mythsand Pathways to Unknown Worlds: Sun Ra, El Saturn, and Chicago’s Afro-Futurist Underground, 1954–1968. In addition, fellow sonic experimenter George Lewis’s award-winning A Power Stronger than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music captures much of the legacy Ra’s Chicago years passed along to the AACM, channeling a key period (1945 to 1961) in Ra’s evolution, when his sound changed from standard big-band jazz to the “cosmically oriented” musical investigations for which he would gain acclaim and notoriety, as well as influence new communities of improvisers. This video clip showcases an interview with Ra a few years after that time, when the Arkestra was on an international tour following Ra’s tenure in Egypt—it does a fine job of capturing some of the commitment to iconoclastic innovation and new kinds of trans-sonic experiences evident in Ra’s astounding body of work. Exciting to experience their wake.