Sun Ra's mystical time

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Stover, Christopher
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2018
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Abstract

un Ra matters. More now than ever. His music, his metamusical thought, his prose, his relationalities, his myth-science, his activism, his Afro-black mytho-ontology, his imprint on proliferating lines of Afrofuturist expression, his creative decodings of histories and futures, his imaginings of alternative anthropocenes—alternative nows that express, through the collaborative action of musical expression, the impingements of mythical pasts and utopian futures; this is why Sun Ra remains an activist force the transformative potential of which often gets swept aside in narratives that foreground his utopian aspirations.
This essay is a slightly modified version of a talk that I gave at the 2017 Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts conference, the theme of which was “Out of Time.” We’re in an extended moment where it feels like we might truly be out of time: catastrophic climate change is imminent; real dialogue across ideological boundaries is increasingly impossible; capitalism is unquestionably assumed as the default condition within which contemporary life unfolds, even as it increasingly is shown to destroy just about everything it touches (and even the tiniest flickers of challenges to capitalism’s unquestioned hegemony are mercilessly mocked as purely fantastical or even dangerous); legislation is voted upon (and settled along party lines) without due process; tribal fears and loathings ignite new violence—against women, against LGBTQ communities, against ethnic and religious Others. Even guiding themes of post-structuralist epistemology, like the contestable status of so-called “facts,” are mobilized to score partisan political points—viz. the invocation of “alternative facts” by right-wing political advisors. We should celebrate the belated acknowledgment in public discourse of the contingent nature of reality (and its representation in “facts”) but that acknowledgment is mired in craven political gamesmanship rooted in an ontology of winners and losers. It is easy to fall into despair, intensified by knowing that the same forces that create all of these conditions have also created a mechanism—through gerrymandering and voter suppression and micro-fascistic collusion between party, media, and capital—that makes the possibility of substantive change an elusive prospect indeed.

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The Open Space Magazine
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21
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Musicology and ethnomusicology
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Stover, C, Sun Ra's mystical time, The Open Space Magazine, 2018, 21, pp. 106-113
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