Sun Ra – Space is the Place
I discovered the controversial artist Sun Ra while taking a Jazz History class in college. I’m definitely a big fan of jazz, but more along the lines of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and a little bit of Thelonious Monk (not to mention the vocal greats like Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Dinah Washington). While these artists are certainly extraordinarily gifted, even at times other-worldly in terms of their genius and inspiration, Sun Ra’s eccentricity is definitely on a whole other level.
I suppose one could call his music “free jazz,” but only for a complete lack of a better term. Some of Sun Ra’s complex, layered and intricate compositions are honestly very hard to listen to for long periods, yet his unabashed creativity is certainly appreciated.
I stumbled across this clip of his film “Space is the Place” on YouTube, made in 1974. Here he envisions a planet of fantastic musical vibrations, where black people could live in harmony and isolation (this was made in the seventies, the time of heightened racial confrontations, blaxploitation and the golden era of “Black Power,” mind you). His way of transporting us earthlings to this distant planet is through music.
Is this crazy talk or the voice of a far-out genius? I guess it depends on who you talk to. Still, it’s interesting to watch.
And check out this fantastic clip of one of his live shows. Now not all of his music is like this, but this just gives you an idea of where his head was at times:
Do you think this is ‘music’? How can one determine what music should sound like, or even what sounds ‘good’? I’d love to know your thoughts :)