Friday, January 17, 2014

Sun Ra

A large chunk of the country sweltered in a merciless heat wave, fruit bats and possums falling dead from trees. The RAN fired across the bow of a boat carrying desperate refugees. In was in this background that I went to see the Sun Ra Arkestra on the first night of the 2014 MONA FOMA festival.

Beautiful warm high summer evening I went down to an old wharf reclaimed warehouse on reclaimed from the sea Hunter Street. Having seen Sun Ra once many years ago -- sometime last century -- and knowing what to expect, I was still blown away by the joy, by the sonic oscillation, by the wild fire jazz bebop rave burning free across interplanetary space. The juxtaposed rhythms, chaos of vibrating space.

And as I was driving home, I was struck by the beauty of the moon reflecting off the waves. The Sun endlessly explodes and flames, radiating heat and light and all manner of energy. After seven minutes or so these expanding wave vibrations bounce off and make the moon glow. And the light then falls the surging endless wave upon wave of the lagoon. The light strikes sensitive cells in my eyes and is then relayed, in a effort to make sense, to my brain.

And so with Sun Ra Arkestra. This cold, empty, outer space depth of an idea struck me as a way to make sense of the band. Sun Ra used to speak of being transported to the planet Saturn. This transportation is the unifying idea for the band. Sum Ra created, and the Arkestra continues this science fiction mythos as a theme for their performances. This is seen in the Eygptian flavored space age customs, in lyrics which sing of other worlds and dimensions, of interplanetary harmony. And when they play the music rolls and swirls and bounces around and at times is reinforced to make bigger and stronger waves, while at other times the sound is undercutting and making stationary waves. Sound rises from the vibrations and mingles to bring forth new sounds that have never been played. These future echoes come to life and fall away.

Horns sounded, drums and piano and guitar and bass and an assortment of voices filled the hall. The audience swayed and danced and clapped along. The band encouraged the audience to become part of the band, part of sound, part of the cosmic harmony. The band played the Hobart Blues and I closed my eyes and swayed and dreamt down, dirty, ballsy Chicago brothel blues. Strippers glistening in the light half covered by feather boas, pasties blinking reflected diamonte crystals. In my reverie it was appropriate for the Arkestra to play “When You Wish Upon a Star,” as music, like dreams, builds our desires from the void, melting them away in an instant. And I thought that if Finnegans Wake is the book of the night, the book of dreams, then Sun Ra Arkestra is the song of the night, a vast endless soundtrack to dreaming.

1 comment:

Anthony Hayes said...

Outer Spaceways Incorporated!

Sun Ra reminds me of Charles Fourier's notion that the planets made love. There is something cosmically erotic about their work; not so much panspermia, more Fourierist planetfucking.

I could be wrong.