Visions of Sun Ra; Arkestral Sightings

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#1 Mon, 2002-04-15 21:07
Greg Drusdow
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Visions of Sun Ra; Arkestral Sightings

The Sun Ra film footage which Margaret Davis yesterday announced that will be shown at this year's Vision Festival is the same Arkestra fi= lm footage that was shown at the Red Room in Baltimore on June 9, 2001. For=

those who might want to see a review that I wrote on these films, the following is an extract from my Saturn List June 10, 2001 posting: ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ A full house of nearly 60 people turned up Saturday to see the Su= n Ra films shown at The Red Room inside Normals Books and Records in Baltimore, Maryland. Apparently, since some 100 people were turned away,=

another screening will be done tonight, Sunday June 10 at 8:30 p.m. The second half of the program was a collection of 16mm films tha= t film archivist Michael Chaiken spliced together from the previously existing individual reels of film that were sold to the Philadelphia Musi= c Exchange. These films were different from the color movies that Richard Wilkerson would often show in the 1970's as part of a Sun Ra Arkestra sho= w. That film would be projected to show behind the Arkestra as they perform= ed at clubs and concert halls and included many segments of the Arkestra performing on the pyramids in Egypt and would often fit well with the Arkestra doing a space improvisational piece, a cosmo drama segment, or when doing an extended percussive or dance chart like Watusi, or even whe= n doing an intense performance of an outside composition like Shadow World.=

    The film presented at the Red Room included some very personal ho=

me movies of the Arkestra in a variety of circumstances accompanied by Sun Ra's music from El Saturn LPs in the private collection of Dr. Stewart Mostofsky. Even though I was told by the event coordinators that the mus= ic was not cued to the exact film segments, they certainly seemed so, in a Raesque type of way. One early segment of the film compliation in black and white was shot outside the Arkestra house and also apparently in a place looking like Fairmont Park in Philadelphia. The following color (o= r sometimes more sepia coloration due to the film's unfortunate detioration= ) appear to be from the first Egyptian tour by the Arkestra with pieces of footage that seemed to be "outtakes" of the previously mentioned Richard Wilkerson film compilation. There were interesting unique segments with Sun Ra walking through a place that appeared to be a combination of ruins=

and dead trees with Sun Ra posing at some of the objects along the way. =

There was a good segment in the streets of possibly Cairo where the Arkestra came upon a mural wall and some retired people hanging out at th= at place. The interaction between the Arkestra in full costume, the residents, an the painted mural wall was both interesting and at times tinged with humor. A later segment was projected upside down and with the action happening backwards, an unfortunate mistake when compiling the full reel,=

but in an interesting way it worked within the total concept of the presentation. That segment, according to Michael Chaiken, will be respliced to run properly at tonights showing. There was then an onstage=

rehearsal of the Arkestra that showed unique footage of Sun Ra modifying sheet music on one of his compositions while rehearsing it. There was al= so some backstage pre-concert preparation footage that showed the Arkestra engaging in some of their unique warm up rituals. Outdoor footage of a windswept hilly place which seemed to be in Egypt was toward the close of=

the 45 minutes of compiled 16mm footage. A video transfer of this film compilation will be made for the Arkestra. The films will be sent to the Harvard Film Archive in Cambridg= e, Massachusetts for preservation and archiving. The efforts of the people involved in this Red Room presentation, included Michael Chaiken, Ian Nagoski, and Stewart Mostofsky (along with others).

Greg Drusdow drusdow@compuserve.com