"My Music is Words" -- The Poetics of Sun Ra

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Virginia Tech

This thesis argues for a critical examination of the published writings of Le Sony'r Ra, also known as Sun Ra, a groundbreaking jazz musician and philosopher of the 20th century. Recent redistribution of Sun Ra's musical output, which includes hundreds of releases on many record labels from the 1950's onward, has prompted a critical renaissance towards his influence on jazz orchestration, band management, do-it-yourself ethics, and structured improvisation In spite of this resurgence of interest in his music, his written corpus has failed to produce a comparable level of criticism or discussion. It is my firm belief that it is the body of work's relative scarcity in print, not its value as literature, that has kept the material underground for such a lengthy period of time. With the recent republication of Sun Ra's daunting body of poetry and prose, the discovery of early manuscripts, and the surfacing of relevant critical essays, the time has come to analyze his poetic position within the context of African-American philosophical thought.

El Saturn records, Bible scholarship, Sun Ra, poetry, jazz, Afro-futurism, outer space, Egypt