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The Music of the Spheres

Sun Ra Performing

Recently, my wife and I watched a 1980 documentary about the avant-garde composer and musician, and idiosyncratic, self-styled visionary, Sun Ra — Sun Ra:  A Joyful Noise, directed by Robert Mugges.  The life of outer space and the mythology of Ancient Egypt were touchstones for Ra, acknowledged sources for his music, self-image, clothing and stage settings.  

Two highlights for me:

Sun Ra tells us that a policeman came to see him to tell him that his neighbors were unhappy about Ra’s loud music.  Ra clarified the matter for the officer, “That’s not ‘music.’  That’s what the Bible tells us to make:  A joyful noise to the Lord.”

(Psalms 100, v. 1-2:  “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. / Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.”)

In another correction of conventional error, Sun Ra informs us:  “I am not a man of history, of his-story.  I am a spiritual being of mystery, of my-story.”

(If you want to learn more about Sun Ra, explore “The Interstellar Style of Sun Ra” by Rebecca Bengal , which appeared in a 2014 issue of The Pitchfork Review.) As Ra would surely join in wishing us:  May all our traveling, earthly and unearthly, enlarge our loves and illumine our souls!

Sun Ra in ceremonial dress

Lawrence Russ View All

Was the Alfred P. Sloan Scholar for the Humanities at the University of Michigan. Obtained a Master of the Fine Arts degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where I was selected as a Writing Fellow in Poetry by the Program faculty. Have published poems, essays and reviews in many magazines, anthologies, reference works, and other publications, including The Nation, The Iowa Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Parabola, OMNI, and the exhibition catalogue for Art at the Edge of the Law at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum. Received a law degree from the University of Michigan, and have changed the law and created educational programs in the fields of arts law, historic preservation law, and public construction and contracting law in the State of Connecticut. My photographs have appeared in international, national, regional and state juried exhibitions, and have been selected for awards including Honorable Mentions in the Architecture, Fine Art (series), Nature (series), Open Theme (series), Portrait, and Seascape categories from the international Fine Art Photography Awards, and an Honorable Mention in the Fine Art-Other category from the International Photography Awards. Photographs of mine have been selected for exhibition or publications by or in the 2019 International Juried Exhibition of the Center for Photographic Art (Carmel, CA), 2019 International Competition of The Photo Review, the 2019 Open Exhibition of the Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins CO, F-Stop Magazine, Shadow & Light Magazine, Black Box Gallery in Portland OR, Praxis Gallery in Minneapolis MN, the Darkroom Gallery in VT, PhotoPlace Gallery in VT, A Smith Gallery in TX, the New Britain Museum of American Art, and many other journals and venues. My work has also been selected for inclusion in the Flatfile Program of Artspace New Haven (CT). My photography website is at .

One thought on “The Music of the Spheres Leave a comment

  1. I saw Sun Ra and his Arkestra perform twice in the 80s, at an outdoor music festival in Birmingham, and in a music bar in the town where I live. Both performances were of course, stellar.

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