Day 316: Face the Music

I sat and watched the Sun Ra Arkestra perform in the West Philly late summer sunset weather. It occurred to me how important hearing Sun Ra was to a younger me. I thought I knew a lot more than I actually did. I was confident and even arrogant in my knowledge of the world.

When I heard Sun Ra, his music struck me as unusual, more unusual than many other bands and in ways I could not understand at all. It really rattled me. It caused me to rethink how I engaged with some basic things– music, bands, and concepts like earth, Saturn, space, melody, fantasy, and reality. Words and their meanings. Confronting the weirdness of Sun Ra helped me realize that much of what we rely on and believe in are just as artificial as the fantasies Sun Ra invented. The laws and rule we take for granted as based on assumptions and beliefs. Sun Ra had a different understanding and out of it came beautiful music. It was a seminal moment in my understanding that we are only moored to the world through tenuous beliefs.

It was a really nice night in West Philly, cool and breezy. Fall is coming.

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Day 311: Planet Earth

This past summer, I saw four of my all-time favorite bands: The New Pornographers, Half-Japanese, Danielson, and the Sun Ra Arkestra. I saw them all for free. It was a good summer for music.

When I went to see Sun Ra in West Philly, I really wanted to go with Miles. He would have liked to see Sun Ra. He likes jazz, and he likes weird things. He would have loved the sounds and the costumes they wore– sequined smocks and funny hats. We walked behind the band stand as we left, and we could see how hard the band worked and how they communicated with each other. Miles would have appreciated it. He would have taken pictures.

It was a great weekend that Miles would have enjoyed. The day after seeing Sun Ra, I went to a little zine festival in the Rotunda near the UPenn campus. I bought a few zines, including a zine by a photographer. Miles would have liked his work. He would have picked up some good zine ideas.

I know this is true.

Day 67: Bye Bye

I make little discoveries sometimes.  In October, I realized I still carried the keys to Miles’s car on my keychain.  I went back to work a few weeks ago and I saw that my calendar was still turned to August. We found a note from Miles to his mother in a cookbook, asking her to make poppy seed muffins with him.

I opened the glove box in my car and found some CDs Miles had stashed there. Among them was a Sun Ra CD I had bought many years before. I had forgotten about it, but Miles found it. He made his way through all the CDs we had in the attic and found all my old Sun Ra CDs. He liked jazz, and I know he listened to my Mingus, Miles Davis, and Dave Brubeck. He also attended the jazz concerts in town on Tuesdays, sometimes with a friend and sometimes alone. He played trumpet in the stage band and marching band. He looked into a lot of music on his own, including the weird Sun Ra in the attic boxes.

Sun Ra is another difficult musician, the kind of artist Miles certainly appreciated. Sun Ra was from the planet Saturn (Philadelphia). He conducted a big band orchestra. They resided on the same space ship (a large house in Philly somewhere) and performed some pretty wild improvisational concerts. Sun Ra is more than a band. He is a positive philosophy about music, life, and human potential.

Early in his career, before expanding his music to the far out extremes he is now popularly known for, Sun Ra composed and performed some pretty straightforward pop tunes, including “Bye Bye.” It is a beautiful song. I don’t know if Miles had found the collection of early Sun Ra singles this came from. The CDs were in the pile, but I am not sure if he got to them yet. I am glad he listened to the challenging Sun Ra. It befits Miles’s active, searching artistic mind.