A Sun Ra Christmas: Hear His 1976 Radio Broadcast of Poetry and Music

Every­body spreads hol­i­day cheer in their own way. On Christ­mas Day 1976, the eccen­tric jazz com­pos­er and band­leader did it by appear­ing on Blue Gen­e­sis, a show on the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­ni­a’s radio sta­tion WXPN, read­ing his poet­ry with music. “The choice of poems and their sequenc­ing offers what Sun Ra thought was most impor­tant in his writ­ing,” writes John Szwed in Space is the Place: The Life and Times of Sun Ra. “Here are key words like ‘cos­mos,’ ‘truth,’ ‘bad,’ ‘myth,’ and ‘the impos­si­ble’; atten­tion to pho­net­ic equiv­a­lence; the uni­ver­sal­i­ty of the music and its meta­phys­i­cal sta­tus; allu­sions to black fra­ter­nal orders and secret soci­eties; bib­li­cal pas­sages and their inter­pre­ta­tion; and even a few auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal glimpses.”

Part 1

Part 2

Though read on Christ­mas, these poems have no par­tic­u­lar reli­gious slant — noth­ing, that is, but Sun Ra’s usu­al mix­ture of the Kab­bal­ah, Rosi­cru­cian­ism, numerol­o­gy, Freema­son­ry, ancient Egypt­ian mys­ti­cism, Gnos­ti­cism, and black nation­al­ism.

Fans of Sun Ra would expect no less. But those more recent­ly acquaint­ed with the jazzman born Her­man Poole Blount may find this an unusu­al half-hour of lis­ten­ing, for the hol­i­days or oth­er­wise. “A pio­neer of ‘Afro­fu­tur­ism,’ Sun Ra emerged from a tra­di­tion­al swing scene in Alaba­ma, tour­ing the coun­try in his teens as a mem­ber of his high school biol­o­gy teacher’s big band,” wrote Open Cul­ture’s own Josh Jones ear­li­er this year. “While attend­ing Alaba­ma Agri­cul­tur­al and Mechan­i­cal Uni­ver­si­ty, he had an out-of-body expe­ri­ence dur­ing which he was trans­port­ed into out­er space.”

In that post on Sun Ra’s 1971 UC Berke­ley Course “The Black Man in the Cos­mos,” you can learn more about the numer­ous non­stan­dard expe­ri­ences and philoso­phies that went into the pro­duc­tion of his words and his music, which con­verge in this spe­cial broad­cast you can hear at the top of the post or on Ubuweb. It’ll make you regret that Sun Ra and his free-jazz “Arkestra” nev­er pro­duced a full-length Christ­mas album — though maybe, on whichev­er dis­tant plan­et his immor­tal spir­it reached after the end of his Earth-life two decades ago, he’s record­ing it as we speak.

via Ubuweb

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Sun Ra’s Full Lec­ture & Read­ing List From His 1971 UC Berke­ley Course, “The Black Man in the Cos­mos”

The Cry of Jazz: 1958’s High­ly Con­tro­ver­sial Film on Jazz & Race in Amer­i­ca (With Music by Sun Ra)

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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