Archives for category: Marching Band

John Corbett’s book, EXTENDED PLAY, contains, “Brothers From Another Planet: The Space Madness of Lee “Scratch Perry, Sun Ra, and George Clinton,”  a very influential essay which firmly identifies said artists  as the holy trinity of afro-futurism in contemporary culture. There are many other insightful essays and engaging interviews in the book. Looking forward to a long ride on the Red Line this morning  I grabbed Mr. Corbett’s book and settled on revisiting “Anthony Braxton: From Planet to Planet.” An awesome and provocative interview. I so admire the artist who can remain steadfastly wide open, compassionate, and engaged, while still crafting the ways and means of intensely considered and deliberate creative production. This is not as easy as it sounds!

Anthony Braxton. photo by Peter Gannushkin

At the end of the interview Mr. Braxton offers readers his suggested list of tracks. Since this blog focuses on the production and research revolving around Sun Ra, Marching Bands, Creative Music, and insurgent art, this list seemed apt:

1. The Florida State University Marching Band School Theme

2. Sun Ra, “Brainville” (from Sun Song)

3. Sun Ra, “Bygone” (from Mayan Temples)

4. Paul Desmond (w/Brubeck) “You Go to My Head”

5. Frankie Lymon, “The ABC’s of Love”

6. Ornette Coleman, “Peace” (from The Shape of Jazz to Come)

7. Alban Berg, Lulu (conducted by Pierre Boulex)

8. Richard Wagner, Parsifal and The Ring

9. Charlie Parker, “Donna Lee”

10. Lee Konitz/Warne Marsh, “Sax of a Kind”

11. Dinah Washington, “You Go to My Head”

       **12. William Grant Stills,  A Bayou Legend

13. Cecil Taylor, Akisakila

14. Sal Mosca/Warne Marsh Quartet, “Steady As She Goes” (from Live at the Village Vanguard, Vol. II)

15. John Coltrane, Central Park West”

~ Extended Play, by John Corbett, pg 217.

** Amazing.

The Solar Flare Arkestral Marching Band Fundraising Campaign has begun!

Check out our promotional video. I hope it inspires you to give us a little kick!

Thank you for all of the support thus far!

And cli k here for a link to the site to see what kinds of goodies await you!

Thank You,

Sending much love from Outer Spae!


Chicago is having a lovely lovely Autumn.

When The Lakeside Pride Freedom Marching band and I agreed on a date for our flashmob, we had to be optimistic about the weather, but of course you never know. Sure enough, a week before the shoot, all forcasts predict a 40% chance of rain. 2 days before the shoot, it’s a 50% chance of rain. I’m thinking, “Really, Chicago? Can I not catch a break?” Well, apparently the Weather Boos heard me because when I woke up Sunday morning, October 24, the clouds were parting, and the sun was shining. Indeed, it was downright balmy. My crew stayed dry, the Lakeside Pride Freedom Marching Band played their hearts out. We had a really good time.


landed at the Raymond Hilliard Homes at approximately 1pm on Sunday afternoon.

The Arkestra performed WHERE PATHWAYS MEET. Composed by Sun Ra.

Arranged by Mr. Frederick Tapley.

Coordinated by The wonderful Robert Schultz and Rhonda Thullis (these two are not mere humans, no, but angels).



And we also pay homage to the following young people:

Justin Aaberg

Billy Lucas

Asher Brown

Seth Walsh

Raymond Chase

Tyler Clementi.

May the cosmos bring you peace, children.


Here’s a slideshow preview. The video is going to take a moment to present – some other projects, namely a fundraiser,  are crowding the front seat.

I hope you enjoy the images as much as the crew and I had fun filming them.

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Very Special Thanks (in no particular order) to:

Mr. Frederick Tapley

Ben Chaffee

Samuel Davis

Ivan Lozano

Jessica Beardsley

Floyd Webb

Michael Gleason

James Smith

Benji Pearson


Ben T. Brown

Trenton Smith

Curtis Carrington

The Gracious Residents of The Raymond Hilliard Homes

Lionel Spires

Nicole McKinney

Rhonda Thullis

Robert Schultz

Dr. Daniel Berger

Torkwase Dyson


Shannon Stratton & Lauren Basing @








“If you find earth boring

Just the same old same thing

C’mon sign up with Outer Spaceways, Incorporated.”

~ Sun Ra


This happened at approximately 11am on Saturday
morning September 11, 2010:

I sincerely hope this video conveys a little bit of the magic generated from the Rich South High School Band, the band’s musical director, Mr. Douglas, and the wonderful arrangement of Space is the Place by Mr. Frederick Tapley. There are many thank yous to send out, and a great deal of work still to come. But I wanted to share this with the people who worked so hard, got SO WET, and made it happen. You had to be there, but it was a beautiful beautiful thing.

Thank you Rich South  H.S.M.B.

You bad!

“Outer space is a pleasant place A place where you can be free There’s no limit to the things you can do Your thought is free and your life is worthwhile Space is the place. ”

~ Sun Ra

Just one caveat: the audio is NOT mixed. At all.

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I am favoring speed over precision for these! Sorry about repeat images.
All images taken by Ivan Lozano.

Today is September 12, 2010. I am still in Chicago. The threewalls residency ended on Sept.6, but I could not go home without producing at least one March. Shannon Stratton, the executive Director of threewalls, and I knew it would be difficult when we took this project on, and we knew it would take time to create all of the relationships, do the research, make the calls, ask the favors and apply the pressures necessary to create a flash mob marching band. It just took one week longer than my residency! But we did it!

The weather for the past week has been sublime. Fall has descended upon Chicago. Every day last week, was sunny and cool – and then Saturday happened. Thunderstorms! Riding the train from the Howard stop of the Red Line to Cermak Chinatown, I watched the clouds grow darker, the rain fall heavier. I text messaged my Sound Supervisor, Ben Chaffee. Both of us were dubious, and yet steadfast and determined. There were way too many moving parts to this event (70 students, 3 school busses, 13 crew members, borrowed equipment, guest-visa on the residency!) to turn back now. Back and forth we text’d our hopes for a break in the rain. I twittered my anxiety and prayers to Sun Ra to my 5 followers. There was a tiny break were full pour turned into misty Drizzle – the Musical Director, the brilliant and ebullient Mr. Y. L. Douglas, ordered his marching band into position – sound and camera rolled! About 15 seconds into Space Is The Place, the sheets of rain started coming down. And the RICH SOUTH HIGH SCHOOL MARCHING BAND sang the spiral melody even louder; they marched and danced even more brilliantly.

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In that moment, Chinatown Square was The Place and The Space to inhabit. I am still awed and inspired by the dignity, professionalism and utter beauty of the Rich South High School Marching Band. We will certaily work together again. So please keep checking in for updates, post- residency blog entries, and announcements for more marches. Thank you threewalls. THANK YOU CHICAGO. I’ll be back.

Check back soon for more images!

A March for Sun Ra

will strike the planet earth!



2133 South China Place
Chicago, IL 60616-1536
Just off the Red Line – Cermak

The participants of this event sincerely hope you can join us to celebrate solar flares, immeasurable equations, Sun Ra, and the cosmos.
We also ask that you please not ask the participants when the event  will begin.
Please do not tell folks you do not know why you are there.
Please do not stand around expectantly waiting for the event to begin —
Simply enjoy your Saturday morning at Chinatown Square.
Trust us. When the solar flare strikes  you cannot miss it!

See you Saturday, and thank you so much for all your support.

Space is the Place (1973) written by Sun Ra
Arranged for Marching Band by Mr. Frederick Tapley
Musical Director: Mr. Y.L. Douglas
Featuring The Rich South High School Marching Band
Sound Supervisor: Ben Chaffee
Executive Producer: threewalls

Audio/Visual Crew:
Jessica Bardsley
Samuel Davis
Michael Gleason
Joe Grim
Shy Hamilton
Sharon Harrell
Ivan Lozano
Cauleen Smith
James Smith
and friends.

This project is funded in part by: UCIRA, UCSD Academic Senate and threewalls

solar flare #1

As all of the South Side of Chicago knows, the Bud Biliken Parade happened on Saturday, August 14. Participants begin at about 35th and MLK and then promenade all the way down to 51st. Chicago was in a hot streat, so the 1.9 miles was difficult for some.  But I have to say, this was one of the best city parades I’ve been to in a long time.

Super hero sighting on my way to coner store to buy batteries. Mundane and magical collide!

I did not actually see any group in the parade donning outfits such as these, which leads me to believe that I did in fact have an actual Superhero Sighting. I tried to take in stride…

My Production Sound Supervisor, Benjamin Chaffee, and I decided that it would be a great idea to test our theories about recording live marching band performances on site – in the street – by doing a test run at the Bud Biliken Parade.

My sound crew: Ben Chaffee, Samuel Davis (also the vinyl LP producer!) James Smith, and Joe Grim. Lovely one and all. They only had to be at the parade for an hour, but hung for the morning and ate BBQ with me. A great crew really makes me look forward to the real shoots!

Hand of Polaroid photographer and the "family photo of me and my crew at the Bud Biliken Parade.

I also wanted to scout more talent — Julian HS and King HS – if you’re reading this – -I Love You! But in fact two of the very best bands in the parade were organizations that have already agreed to collaborate with me: MORGAN PARK HIGH SCHOOL,  and RICH SOUTH HIGH SCHOOL. I was SO proud when I saw them marching down King Boulevard, to be associated in this small way with their talent and majesty. I was snapping pictures like I was they mama. I can’t give Ms Nash of MPHS and Mr. Douglas of RSHS enough praise. They are the picture perfect example of why high school teachers and the arts must not only be funded and supported by made central to the pedagody of building young minds.

But I digress. BUD BILIKEN!


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Come Join us.


click here for more information

These speculative sketches for  Solar Flare Arkestral Marching Band Uniforms  play on the costume design you can see on Sun Ra and his arkestra, but also attempt to produce a unity and order so essential for secret societies when the make public demonstrations of power and venture into the public. We must understand, when we see the arkestra, that even if we don’t know who they are – they do. And they know what they are doing.  Also, in consideration of the likelihood that the arkestras would be staffed by young people, there is an attempt to preserve the hard fought dignity of youth and, well, just be cool.

I am on a quest to find out who styled and dressed Sun Ra’s Arkestra in the later years. I know Sun Ra made many of the early costumes himself; but there is film footage of a man wrapping Sun Ra into some glittering fabric, and twisting a wire bracelet onto his wrist. I really want to know who that man is.

It is amazing how some forms of labor and creative production are completely overlooked by historians and hard-core fans. And very interesting how only now the theatricality of Sun Ra’s live performances is coherently understood not as simply a show, or gimmick, but as the visual component of his cosmological equations and communication systems. If anyone knows who the arkestra stylist was, will you PLEASE let me know?

The Colors.
This project embraces the processional as a celebratory disruption applied in the interest of creative thought and inspired actions, as well as the recognition and celebration of important lives whether that life belong to a teenager on the debate team, a community leader, the shoe shine man, the pre-school teacher, or the mayor. I gravitated towards the colors of orange (yellow) and blue (aqua) because of the way in which each colors is popularly understood across many cultures and social groups as invoking suggestive emotions rather than symbolic iconography, say like red, or white.

I read somewhere that the color orange makes folks hungry. I don’t know about this, but I do believe that people who experience color as more than just aesthetic determinants but also as sensual cues, receive orange as a stimulant for creative action. Orange invites people to dive into a task with enthusiastic abandon (so that makes sense in relation to eating). It is also considered a gateway to change and signifies exploration of the new. And orange is a silly color, I think. You can’t really wear orange when you are talking business – burnt orange maybe, but a blazing solar flare orange? Perhaps not. Orange is for reveling, playing, making, instigating. Destabilization is a good thing and a necessary thing in the production of visual art.

Now the color blue enters into more fraught territory. I don’t even have to mention the ay in which politicians and social engineers cling to the color blue and apply all manner of meaning and agendas to this universal hue. Fortunately for the color blue, it’s bigger than that.
Blue is our world reflected back to us  -literally. Our entire understanding of our physical and metaphysical world  is embedded in this color. His color cannot be claimed or codified any more than an indigo plant can do anything but grow.

Indigo Plant

chemical structure of indigo pigment

But I do think many folks experience the color blue as a relaxing sensation. Blue invites detachment – not disengagement, but perspective. This is very important when one is trying to communicate complex or difficult ideas. Blue is a natural conduit color, it creates connections and pathways – spaceways. Blue is the color that makes two conflicting colors get along. Blue is as fundamental as a bass line, as constant the north star. Blue belongs to no one, and all. And it really likes orange. Look how they pop when the sit beside each other.