Come join WPRB and the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia as we celebrate jazz pioneer SUN RA with live performances, lectures, films, and a record fair! These events are part of the ICA’s current exhibition, “Pathways to Unknown Known Worlds: Sun Ra, El Saturn & Chicago’s Afro-Futurist Underground, 1954-1968,” which runs until August 2nd.
Full information about Sun Ra and the exhibition after the jump!
WED 07-01 @ 7PM: The Sun Ra Arkestra
Tickets are $10 General Admission, $5 for Students with a Valid ID, FREE for ICA Members
ICA is very pleased to present The Sun Ra Arkestra under the direction of Marshall Allen. The Sun Ra Arkestra continues to deliver some of the most potent, soul-grabbing jazz music ever written. With lyrics and song titles filled with mysticism, mythology, space travel, and other similarly cosmic trains of thought, the Arkestra’s freewheeling stage shows, complete with colorful costumes and uninhibited adventurism, perfectly embody the otherworldly proclivities of true jazz innovator Sun Ra.
WED 07-08 @ 7PM: John Szwed Lecture
Hear a lecture by John Szwed, the biographic expert on all things Ra. He is an anthropologist, musicologist and historian who teaches at Columbia University and is the author of Space is the Place: The Lives and Times of Sun Ra (Da Capo Press, 1998).
SAT 07-11 @ 9AM-5PM: Philadelphia Record Fair 2009
$10 from 9-11AM, FREE from 11AM-close
A day of vinyl nirvana! ICA hosts the annual benefit for Vox Populi, Philadelphia’s acclaimed artist-run collective and gallery. Flip through bins. Find your treasure.
WED 07-15 @ 7PM: Outdoor Double Feature, curated by Jesse Pires (WPRB’s DJ Hi-Res!!!!)
Rain or shine. FREE!
Sun Ra: Brother from Another Planet (Dir. Don Letts, UK, 2005, video, 59 mins)
Don Letts, the legendary London DJ who introduced reggae and ska to a generation of punk rockers, delves into the mysterious world of Sun Ra in this British, made-for-television documentary. Sun Ra biographer John Szwed, musician Archie Shepp and member’s of Sun Ra’s Arkestra discuss the life and work of one of jazz music’s pre-eminent pioneers. For the uninitiated, Brother from Another Planet is a great introduction to Sun Ra, and for Ra devotees, it’s required viewing.
Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise (Dir. Robert Mugge, USA, 1980, video, 61 mins)
Consisting of explosive live footage of the Sun Ra Arkestra and fascinating interviews with the man himself, A Joyful Noise is the complete Sun Ra experience. Filmed in and around Philadelphia and Washington D.C. when the Arkestra was living in Germantown, Robert Mugge’s documentary captures the group at the height of its creative powers. Each live performance featured in the film further illustrates the distinctive alchemy Sun Ra was able to create with his disciplined band. Ra makes his case for a better world through music, transcending banal, earthbound realities to produce a strange and fascinating aesthetic fusing ancient history with future visions.
WED 07-22 @ 7PM: King Britt & Rucyl, “Saturn Never Sleeps”
“Saturn Never Sleeps” is a cosmic adventure in contemporary music. For this artist-curated event, Philadelphia DJ, composer and producer King Britt, in collaboration with multimedialist Rucyl, present a night of sonic and visual funk taking micro-edits of Sun-Ra source music and combining it with live experimentation together with video collage.
WED 07-29 @ 7PM: Sonic Liberation Front & Planet Y, curated by Ars Nova Workshop
Please join Ars Nova Workshop and ICA for two very special performances in conjunction with Pathways to Unknown Worlds. An expanded 12-member Sonic Liberation Front, the Philadelphia ensemble acclaimed for their iconoclastic combination of Free Jazz passion and Afro-Cuban percussion, will premiere “Jetway Confidential No.3 (for Sun Ra)”, a new composition dedicated to Sun Ra and commissioned specifically for this performance, and perform an arrangement of Sun Ra’s “Where Pathways Meet” from 1978’s Lanquidity recording, which featured saxophonist and SLF member Julian Pressley. This evening will also feature a very rare appearance from Planet Y – Buchla Music Easel master Charles Cohen and Stinking Lizaveta’s Yanni Papadopoulos, best described as “Subotnick meets Sun Ra meets Schnitzler.” (Aquarius Records) In addition, newly-unearthed archival films will be projected on the gallery walls.
Led by percussionist Kevin Diehl, a protégé of Free Jazz pioneer Sunny Murray, Sonic Liberation Front merges post-bop with traditional Afro-Cuban Yoruba roots music. While other ensembles have merged Bata drumming and jazz, none have done it with the vigor of SLF. The band members are true students of the Lukumi tradition under the guidance of percussionist/omo aña Chuckie Joseph, a lifelong Yoruba cultural scholar. It’s been said a million times that all music originates in West Africa ¬ and by returning the focus to its origins, SLF achieves a natural eclectism that serves as a fountain of ingenuity. Ancient to the future, indeed. For this special performance, an expanded 12-piece SLF performs featuring some of the most notable names in Philadelphia’s exploratory music scene including members of the Sun Ra Arkestra, Make A Rising, and Shot x Shot.
Planet Y: Yanni Papadopoulos (dg-20 Casio digital guitar), Charles Cohen, (Buchla Music Easel)
Sonic Liberation Front: Todd Margasak (cornet), Terry Lawson (tenor saxophone/flute), Dan Scofield (alto saxophone), Julian Pressley (alto saxophone), Brent White (trombone), dmHotep (guitar), Travis Woodson (guitar), Matt Engle (double-bass), Chuck Joseph (Bata drums/drumkit), Shawn “Dade” Beckett (Bata drums/percussion), Khari Clemmons (Bata drums), Kevin Diehl (Bata drums/drumkit)
ABOUT THE EXHIBITION
Jazz pioneer, bandleader, mystic, philosopher, and consummate Afro-Futurist, Sun Ra, (born Herman Poole Blount 1914, Birmingham, Alabama, died 1993) and his personal mythology have grown increasingly relevant to a broad range of artists and communities. “Pathways to Unknown Worlds: Sun Ra, El Saturn & Chicago’s Afro-Futurist Underground, 1954-1968” presents a collection of paintings, drawings, prints, manuscripts, ephemera, and video produced by and about Ra and his associates–much of it previously unseen.
This exhibition, on view at the Institute of Contemporary Art April 24 – August 2, 2009 in the second floor gallery, examines how Ra and his dynamic, continually-evolving ensemble, the Philadelphia-based Arkestra, crafted both their otherworldly image and fiercely independent approach to self-production.
Highlights of the exhibition include original drawings for their 1960’s albums Art Forms of Dimensions Tomorrow and Other Planes of There, and five newly discovered typed and annotated broadsheets. Until recently, only one such broadsheet was known to exist – the one that Ra gave saxophonist John Coltrane in 1956. The show will also include the unpublished manuscript, The Magic Lie, a book of Ra’s poetry, which has become influential in the nascent Black Islamic movement. In addition to these documents, the film Spaceways, by Edward English, will be on view. The film documents Ra and his Arkestra (a deliberate re-spelling of “orchestra”), in 1968, as they prepare to perform at Carnegie Hall.
Early in his career, Sun Ra spent virtually all of his time and energy on Chicago’s south side, identifying with broader struggles for black power and identity, and saw his music as a key element in that struggle. As well as Sun Ra’s connection to the incipient grass-roots Afro-Futurist movement in Chicago, he also has a connection to Philadelphia. In 1968, Sun Ra brought the Arkestra to Philadelphia, where his band mate Marshall Allen inherited a house on Morton Street in Germantown. The house served as band headquarters until Sun Ra’s death in 1993. The Arkestra continues to perform under the leadership of Marshall Allen, who still resides at the Germantown house.
Long admired among fans of progressive jazz, Ra and his personal mythology have grown increasingly relevant and influential to a broad range of artists and communities. His music touched on the entire history of jazz, but he was also a pioneer of electronic and space music, and free improvisation.
Sun Ra developed a complicated persona of cosmic philosophies and lyrical poetry that made him a pioneer of Afro-futurism (a term coined by cultural critic Mark Dery in his 1994 essay “Black to the Future.”)
“Pathways to Unknown Worlds” is curated by John Corbett, Anthony Elms and Terri Kapsalis for the Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago and is coordinated at the ICA by Whitney Lauder Curatorial Fellow Stamatina Gregory. This exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue.