Archives for category: Sun Ra

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 happy as I am to discover this cool funky site , it’s a bit daunting. I am learning more than I need to about the many and amazing album covers Sun Ra created for his short run vinyl presses of his recordings.

From the website called "SUN RA QUILTS OF JOY." Joy indeed.

This is just luscious and, for me, really expands my understanding of Sun Ra as an artist.

Oh. Like a mix tape, or a home burned CD, but it's vinyl!

All images are from:

Much respect.

I had a cold drink of water with musician/composer LeRoy Bach the other day. He was talking about his idea that Sun Ra’s most radical experimentation was expressed through the way in which he recorded the music. LeRoy explained that Sun Ra would often place the mic so that a very small and subtle thing could be experienced, through the recording medium, as a very large and expansive thing.

I think this is a brilliant observation. The quest is to find ways of applying this technique to video, in conjunction with Julie Perini”s ideas about relational filmmaking for the project that is brewing here.

Sun Ra album cover never printed - except in a brilliant drawing by Robert Pruitt...

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.

The first SOLAR FLARE ARKESTRAL MARCHING BAND appearance will be performed by THE MORGAN PARK HIGH SCHOOL MARCHING BAND. The band’s extraordinary director, Ms. Shemeka Nash, embraces the opportunity to expose her students to the music of Sun Ra and a performance in a new setting.

Morgan Park High School Marching Band

I was really taken with this high school when I visited. At 2:30 in the afternoon, the place was buzzing with activity. Football practice, drill team, color car, drum corp, and tennis were all being practice and enjoyed. Ms. Nash is an extremely dedicated educator and her band is full of creative and positive young people. That’s what I like!

This band’s interpretation of Sun Ra’s music as arranged by composer, Greg Ward, should not be missed. In case you are interested in learning more about this band and Morgan Park High, click on the links here. With a couple of clicks of you mouse, you can adopt Ms. Nash’s band and help support their huge operation.

As Ms. Nash explained to me, “This is a Grade A, black, high school marching show band.” Okay?  The Morgan Park High School Marching Band gets down! And now with their cooperation,  the Solar Flare Arkestral Marching Band has officially launched! The performances will not be widely announced until a few days before they occur, but you can expect the Ark to land sometime during the last week of August. And it’s LIFTOFF!

Five marches, five Sun Ra tunes, arranged by five established Chicago composers! If you are a musician who marches, if you love Sun Ra – if you just plain love performing, join the SOLAR FLARE ARKESTRAL MARCHING BAND and be a part of an exciting public arts program. All performances will be in the month of August 2010.
Facebook a message to Kelly Gabron for more information!