“In early 1971 Sun Ra was artist-in-residence at University of California, Berkeley, teaching a course called “The Black Man In the Cosmos”. Rather few students enrolled but the classes were often full of curious persons from the surrounding community. One half-hour of each class was devoted to a lecture (complete with handouts and homework assignments), the other half-hour to an Arkestra performance or Sun Ra keyboard solo. Reading lists included the works of Madame Blavatsky and Henry Dumas, the Book of the Dead, Alexander Hislop’s The Two Babylons, The Book of Oahspe and assorted volumes concerning Egyptian hieroglyphs, African American folklore, and other topics.”
“Sun Ra (birth name: Herman Poole Blount, legal name Le Sony’r Ra; (b. May 22, 1914 – May 30, 1993) was born in Birmingham, Alabama. He was a prolific jazz composer, bandleader, piano and synthesizer player, poet and philosopher known for his “cosmic philosophy,” musical compositions and performances.”
John Cage and Sun Ra performed together in 1986 at Coney Island, New York. This recording from Ubuweb documents that famous meeting of the minds. Sun Ra’s DX-7 improvisations are extremely original and interesting as John Cage performs the vocal work. They are like “and the twain will never meet” together but the total performance stands out as a historic and rare recording.
“Sun Ra begins with improvisations on the Yamaha DX7 synthesizer. John Cage performs his vocal work, Empty Words (Part IV), and each alternates performances. Cage’s performance is wonderfully trance-like with long silences as is typical of him. Sun Ra’s playing is other-worldly with little of the jazz quality that one hears in his Arkestra works. As a combined effort this “meeting” may not be very convincing. However if you consider each individual’s artistry, especially Sun Ra’s incredible sojourn at the synthesizer, you will find this a very rewarding experience.”
I’ve always liked Sun Ra and his music. I did have a chance to see him live in Chicago and was not let down. He surrounded himself with top-flight musicians and had the magic to have them play as one. Here is an interview that some may find interesting.