Sun Ra: “Calling Planet Earth”

Calling Planet Earth (1986)

Video short by Bill Sebastian. Made at Mission Control, Boston.  13 min.

“Visuals performed by Bill Sebastian on the Outerspace Visual Communicator.”

Music by Sun Ra and his Arkestra:  Ra-keyb, voc; Al Evans-tp; Fred Adams-tp; Tyrone Hill-tb; Marshall Allen-as; John Gilmore-ts; Danny Ray Thompson-bs; Eloe Omoe-bcl; James Jacson-bsn, perc; Bruce Edwards-eg; John Brown-d; June Tyson-voc. Dance, gesture, and Virtual Reality: Michael Ray, Barday, Eddie Thomas (Thomas Thaddeus), Atakatune.

Charles Gocher Tribute Article by Alan Bishop at Perfect Sound Forever

Alan Bishop sporting his Charlie-photo-ring.  Photo by Mark Sullo.

The new April/May 2008 edition of the online music zine Perfect Sound Forever includes an article by Alan Bishop about Charles Gocher, his adoptive soul brother and co-conspirator in Sun City Girls who died of cancer in February, 2007.

“Invisible Tempos of the Vanishing Assassin” was written over the course of a month-long journey through Indonesia that Alan took last August. It takes the form of a kind of memorial diary, in which Alan tells old stories, describes Charlie’s creative process, rants, and generally undertakes the impossible task of sketching who Charlie was.

It’s a great piece. Here’s a taste:

Gocher used to carry around an ant colony in his pants pocket in the form of a salt shaker filled with dirt, sugar, and a large collection of red ants burrowing within. He once brought a lawnmower to a SCG show and during the set, fired it up and ran it over several large trash bags filled with confetti. Afterwards, the confetti was stomped into the beer-soaked concrete floor and it took the manager the entire next day to remove it all with a scraper. At house parties in Arizona, he would hold court in the kitchens, playing oven rack concerts into the night or scat sing and dance till dawn. On tour in 1990, we visited the grave of Edgar Allen Poe in Baltimore and Charlie traded some new flowers he picked himself for the ones already on the grave. He later convinced a whole room of people at a late-night party to smoke those dried flowers from a pipe, claiming they had special powers from the spirit of Poe. There wasn’t a soul in the room who refused to smoke them. Regardless of how absurd or impractical he could be, people trusted him and listened to him, hanging on every word. And on the other side of the world, there he was as an aloof be-bop version of Peter Pan in a village in Sumatra 18 years ago playing a wooden flute leading a pack of 50 children all over town with the good citizens watching nervously along the way in disbelief as if an alien had landed from beyond and was taking their children away….

But this is all anecdotal. His greatest moments are reserved for those who could perceive them for their full-effect, as he was light years ahead of most of you and your shallow, socially-engineered points of reference, sorry.

…What’s a full-grown Bengal Tiger got to say to a roomful of crickets? I wouldn’t park a Rolls Royce next to an AMC Pacer. Gocher would have put the Bengal Tiger in the Rolls Royce and rammed it through the window of your fucking living room.

As the Sumatra anecdote above implies, Charlie really did have a way with kids, and kids dug him. At various parties and gatherings I attended over the years, he could almost always be found hanging out with the kids. They’d spend hours talking and laughing, pretty much in their own meta-party. For a while, he and the early-teen daughter of one scene perennial even formed their own band and gigged out a few times. She fronted, they created the music together, and it was both great stuff and inspiring to see.

How children respond to a person is, I maintain, a true barometer of that person’s character. Despite all of Charlie’s dark edges and interests, fanged black humor, and inner demons he was — deep down — a gentle and playful man with a huge heart. The kids always seemed to spot this a mile away and loved him for it. They’d bring out the best in each other.

I wasn’t especially close with Charlie (few were), and so I was spared seeing him at his darkest and worst. But every time I think of Charlie, I hear his laugh — mucousy from smoking so damn much, and because it came from deep down within him.

Be sure to catch Alan and Rick Bishop’s Brothers Unconnected: A Tribute to Charles Gocher & Sun City Girls, coming soon to a US or Canadian city near you.  Visit SunCityGirls.com for latest tour info.

The Brothers Unconnected: Sun City Girls Tribute/Memorial Tour in May and June, 2008

Sun City Girls promo photo from the '80s. (Credit: Soda)

Beginning in May 2008 the surviving members of Sun City Girls, Alan and Richard Bishop, are embarking on a tour of the US and Canada called “The Brothers Unconnected: A tribute to the Sun City Girls and Charles Gocher.”

The tour begins in Seattle on Sunday, May 18 at The Triple Door. (Tickets are available online.)

As followers of the legendary band know, drummer Charles Gocher died of cancer in February 2007. A private memorial was held shortly after. With this tour, Alan and Rick make good on their solemn vow to publicly honor Charlie, his memory, and his immense talent.

Most dates will feature an opening 40 minute film of Charles Gocher’s video works, which are equal parts demented, brilliant, hilarious, and inventive. This will be followed by two acoustic sets of Alan and Rick playing selected songs from the impossibly voluminous catalog of Sun City Girls material created during their 27 year history together.

Listed below are the dates announced as I write this, and more will be announced as they are confirmed. For the very latest information please consult the official Sun City Girls web site.

Whatever you do don’t miss it, and while you’re there have a shot of cheap scotch for Charlie.

5.18.08 – Seattle, WA – Triple Door
5.19.08 – Portland, OR – Doug Fir
5.21.08 – San Francsico, CA – Slim’s
5.23.08 – Phoenix, AZ – Modified
5.25.08 – Los Angeles , CA – Echoplex
5.27.08 – Sacramento, CA – TBA
6.14.08 – Chicago, IL – Lakeshore Theater
6.15.08 – Louisville, KY – TBA
6.18.08 – Montreal, QC – La Sala Rosa
6.19.08 – Cambridge, MA – The Brattle Theater
6.20.08 – Portland, ME – SPACE
6.21.08 – Philadelphia, PA – Johnny Brenda’s
6.22.08 – New York , NY – Knitting Factory
6.24.08 – Pittsburgh, PA – Andy Warhol Gallery
6.25.08 – Washington, D.C. – Black Cat
6.26.08 – Asheville, NC – Grey Eagle
6.27.08 – Atlanta, GA – TBA

More Dates coming: Austin, Tucson, San Diego and more.

Climax Golden Twins, Alvarius B, and David Daniell this Thursday

Alvarius B, Climax Golden Twins, and David Daniell - Jan. 17, 2008, 10 PM - at the Rendezvous (Seattle)

Not to dis any of the other performers (all of them outstanding and well worth your lousy half-a-sawbuck all on their lonesome), but I think they would agree it goes without saying that The act to catch is Alvarius B (aka Alan Bishop from Sun City Girls), who will be playing only his third solo show ever.  If you haven’t heard his albums (or perhaps his collaborative releases with Cerberus Shoal and Dylan  Nyoukis) you’re missing out.  (Although:  the SCG site offers the recent CD re-issue of his first album.)  If you’re in town for this show Thursday night, you shouldn’t miss out even more.  So what if it’s a school night?  Everyone else at work will prolly have a hangover, too — only yours will be cooler.

There’s more about the line-up (including links to their various web sites) at The Rendezvous’ own web site.

Burnt Weeny Sandwich – The Movie

Burnt Weeny Sandwich
April 30, 1969 KQED TV, San Francisco, CA
18 min. B&W and color. Originally on 16mm.

Screen captures from the film 'Burnt Weeny Sandwich'

Part 1: http://youtube.com/watch?v=Hn1aV3VnZQg
Part 2: http://youtube.com/watch?v=9IY1STwLoqU
Part 3: http://youtube.com/watch?v=xeHVSKEUfAo

Aired on KQED TV in 1969, the Dilexi Series represents a pioneering effort to present works created by artists specifically for broadcast. The 12-part weekly series was conceived and commissioned by the Dilexi Foundation, an off-shoot of the influential San Francisco art gallery founded by James Newman. Newman, who operated the Dilexi Gallery from 1958 until 1970, saw this innovative series as an opportunity to extend the influence of the contemporary arts far beyond the closeted environment of the commercial gallery.

Formal agreement was reached with KQED in 1968 with the station’s own John Coney designated as series producer. No restrictions, regarding length, form or content, were imposed upon the works, except for Newman’s stipulation that they be aired weekly within the same time-slot. Upon their completion, the 12 works were broadcast during the spring and summer of 1969.

Of the 12 artists invited to participate in the Dilexi Series, ten of them completed new works, and two, Andy Warhol and Frank Zappa, submitted extant works. The tapes and films are far-reaching in their approaches to the medium and the circumstance of the broadcast series. Some of the artists chose to intervene in the relationship of broadcaster and audience by broaching the subject of communications. (…)

Burnt Weeny Sandwich is another rarity. Created by Frank Zappa, the film, in one form or another, found its way into a larger work, Uncle Meat. Something of a high-speed home movie, Burnt Weeny Sandwich features the original Mothers of Invention, along with Captain Beefheart. This is one of the works that exists only within the Dilexi Series.

Once broadcast, the Dilexi Series was stored on the original 2″ videotape masters, a now archaic video format. Some masters were transferred to a contemporary format in 1982 and presented at the S.F. Video Festival. Through the generosity of KQED, the last of the Dilexi Series was just transferred to an exhibition format. This marks the first time in 22 years that all the Dilexi tapes are available. (…)

More info at: http://globalia.net/donlope/fz/videography/Burnt_Weeny_Sandwich.html

The Music:

  • 00:00 “Uncle Meat: Main Title Theme” (1:26-1:55) from Uncle Meat
  • 00:34 Unidentified Percussion Piece
  • 01:27 “Theme From Burnt Weeny Sandwich” from Burnt Weeny Sandwich
  • 05:47 “A Pound For A Brown (On The Bus)” from Uncle Meat
  • 07:15 “Snork”
  • 07:22 “Dog Breath, In The Year Of The Plague” from Uncle Meat
  • 11:20 Unidentified Percussion & Snorks Piece
  • 11:44 “Prelude To King Kong” from Uncle Meat
  • 15:22 “God Bless America” from Uncle Meat
  • 16:01 “The Dog Breath Variations” from Uncle Meat

More Things to Thank John Coney For:

(King Kong-sized hat tip to Hell’s Donut House.)

Missing Pieces by Ilhan Mimaroglu

Composer Ilhan Mimaro�luI’ve been listening to a fair amount of early electronic music lately.

Via the copiously entertaining and worthwhile EARLabs site, I came upon Missing Pieces, a downloadable collection of eight early electronic and musique concrète works by Turkish composer Ilhan Mimaroğlu, culled from three out-of-print LPs released by the Finnadar and Turnabout labels.

Available tracks:

Bowery Bum (1964)
Intermezzo (1964)
Agony (1965)
Prelude for Magnetic Tape I (1966-67)
Prelude for Magnetic Tape VI (1966-67)
Prelude for Magnetic Tape IX (1966-67)
Prelude for Magnetic Tape XI (1966-67)
Prelude for Magnetic Tape XII (1966-67)

(Fwiw, there’s apparently also a BitTorrent floating about, courtesy of the Avant Garde Project, that includes these and a few other pieces, plus a text transcription of liner notes.)

For those unfamiliar with him, following are some biographic notes written by Mimaroglu, though I’m not able to determine their original source at this time.

Time has told in first person singular that I was born March 11, 1926, in Istanbul, turkey; son of the eminent architect, Kemalletin, whom I have never known as he died when I was barely a year old. He had wanted me to grow up with music. There was a phonograph in our house and a number of classical records. Those were my only toys.

I was also hearing music that the environment was offering me, music that I regarded rather anodine and began to say to myself that there ought to be more to music than all that. Indeed there was. First jazz revealed itself to me, then contemporary art music. My mother wanted me to go to the conservatory. I declined. They would teach me the wrong things there I didn’t know enough about music yet to tell what’s wrong and what’s not. Instead, law school. I couldn’t have cared less about law anyway. But I learned one important thing there, that I should obey only laws I could have made myself. Then came the time for music education as I knew enough about music to avoid the pitfalls. One learns best what ones already knows.

The first products of electronic music and/or musique concrete reached me in the early fifties. By that time I had established a reputation in Turkey as a writer and broadcaster on music. The Rockefeller Foundation heard about me and had me visit New York [in 1955] for a program of studies at Columbia University (primarily in musicology under Paul Henry Lang and composition under Douglas Moore).

A few years later I returned to New York to establish residence and further my studies at Columbia with a program centered around electronic music as in the course of my first visit I had come into closer contact with the work in electronic music (tape music) conducted at Columbia University by Otto Luening and Vladimir Ussachevsky.

For many years I worked in the studios of the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Center [more @ Wikipedia]. My primary mentor was Ussachevsky. I also had the occasion to work with Edgard Varése and Stefan Wolpe, among others. In the early 1970s I was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in music compositions.

In addition to my electronic and instrumental/vocal compositions, I wrote a number of books (on history of music, jazz, electronic music, plus a set of diaries, all published in Turkey).

Even if I hadn’t done anything else, having written (and published) my “Project Utopia” pamphlet, I would have regarded my existence justified.

Postscript:  To correct the (sadly) paltry Wikipedia entry on Ilhan Mimaroglu, he contributed music to the soundtrack of Fellini’s Satyricon, but was not a producer of the film (nor, I believe, producer of the soundtrack overall).

Am I Having Fun Yet, Master?

Courtesy of Bovine Inversus comes this slightly disturbing news item from the Korea Times. The start-up may get some business, but somehow I don’t think it’ll be Sony, Nintendo, or Xbox who will be queuing up. Paging Donald Rumsfeld…

Acoustic Wave Prevents Game Addiction

By Kim Tae-gyu
Korea Times (Seoul), March 12, 2007

A Korean venture start-up has developed an inaudible sound sequence, which it claims can prevent obsessive use of online games, thus giving hope to game addicts.

Xtive on Monday said the sound sequence is based on subliminal effects.

“We incorporated messages into an acoustic sound wave telling gamers to stop playing. The messages are told 10,000 to 20,000 times per second,” Xtive President Yun Yun-hae said.

“Game users can’t recognize the sounds. But their subconscious is aware of them and the chances are high they will quit playing,” the 35-year-old Yun said. “Tests tell us the sounds work.”

Xtive, which was established in 2005, spent about a year to create the sound sequence geared toward addressing the concern that Korean teenagers spend too much time playing computer games.

The addiction to the network games has turned into a serious social problem and some gamers have even died after long sessions in front of the computer.

Experts point out roughly 10 to 20 percent of high school students can be categorized as Web junkies who need treatment. And many believe that is a conservative perspective.

“Experiences tell us kids or adolescents simply don’t stop playing games when faced with forceful measures. Such attempts can also cause many side effects,” Yun said.

“But our newly developed sound sequence tells them to stop playing on their own. We think this can make a real difference in the war against obsessive game play,” he said.

Yun said Xtive plans to commercialize the phonogram along with the government [emphasis added] and game companies.

“Game companies can install a system, which delivers the inaudible sounds after it recognizes a young user has kept playing after a preset period of time,” Yun said.

Xtive applied for a domestic patent for the phonogram and is looking to take advantage of the technology in other sectors.

“We can easily change the messages. In this sense, the potential for this technology is exponential,” Yun said. [Emphasis added.]

Aliens & Music, pt. 2: The Amazing Story Behind The Wisdom of Sun Ra

Cover of the essential book 'The Wisdom of Sun Ra' edited by John Corbett (Chicago, IL: Whitewalls Press, 2006)As I only just posted about, Chicago’s Whitewalls Press published in the spring of 2006 a thin but essential volume entitled The Wisdom of Sun Ra: Sun Ra’s Polemical Broadsheets and Streetcorner Leaflets, compiled by John Corbett.

Following below is the amazing back-story, courtesy of the Chicago Reader and as written a year ago by Peter Margasak, in advance of what may well have been once-in-a-lifetime series of gallery exhibits, symposia, talks, concerts, and special events — alas all ended in mid-January this year. I just can’t believe I missed these events — this is what I get for not paying closer attention to my former hometown. I would have gladly flown there just to see this stuff (no offense intended to my friends there..though they certainly would understand). Dag blaggit.

Anyway, this article covers territory not addressed in Corbett’s introduction to the book, and provides proof positive that at least sometimes, the master finds the student — sometimes even from beyond the grave. Visit the title link below for some rare photographs. Also, see the end of this post for a link to purchase the exhibition catalog directly from the University of Chicago Press (among other delights).

Finally, note that Corbett expresses a desire to tour the exhibit. Seattle residents should begin pestering the Experience Music Project immediately and incessantly (see also EMP’s contact page) to pester-in-turn the good Mr. Corbett and convince him to bring it here!

Ra Materials
Hundreds of artifacts from Sun Ra’s Chicago years nearly wound up at the dump.

By Peter Margasak
Chicago Reader, September 29, 2006

ONE AUGUST DAY six years ago, John Corbett got a mass e-mail containing some disturbing news: a collection of artifacts related to the charismatic, radical jazz musician Sun Ra was in danger of landing on the trash heap.

A professional salvager — someone who gets paid to liquidate the contents of houses that are about to be sold or demolished — had uncovered the materials on the job and shown them to a friend who liked “spacey stuff. She immediately recognized that it was some stuff that had to do with Sun Ra,” Corbett says, and began e-mailing around to see if anyone might want to buy it.

Corbett, a music critic, co-owner of the Wicker Park gallery Corbett vs. Dempsey, and a teacher at the School of the Art Institute, is a Sun Ra fanatic, but he nearly deleted the e-mail after he read it — he figured that somebody else would save the stash if it wasn’t already gone. But instead he decided to meet with the sender, a former teacher at the School of the Art Institute who Corbett says wishes to remain anonymous. She told him the Sun Ra archive was still there.

The house being cleared out, it turned out, had belonged to Alton Abraham, Sun Ra’s business manager. Abraham had died a year earlier and the house was being sold by his ex-wife, Catherine Baymon. “By the time we got down there it was just three days before the house changed hands,” says Corbett. Baymon had already sorted through the materials and set aside some items she wished to keep. She’d also already disposed of some items that Corbett now thinks may have had historical value. “A lot of great stuff got thrown away before we were there,” he says. “And while we were there a whole wardrobe’s worth of clothes, which probably included a lot of the early costumes, was thrown away.”

But what remained was a treasure trove of Sun Ra ephemera: album art, recordings, writings, ledgers, and scraps of paper like ticket stubs and gig flyers. It’s this material that forms the bulk of an astonishing exhibit that opens Sunday [Oct. 1, 2006] at the Hyde Park Art Center, “Pathways to Unknown Worlds: Sun Ra, El Saturn & Chicago’s Afro-Futurist Underground, 1954-68.”

It wasn’t until Sun Ra and his band, the Arkestra, moved from Chicago to New York in 1961 that the world took notice of the bandleader, pianist, and philosopher. “Pathways” sheds new light on his lesser-known early years. Sun Ra, who died in 1993, spent years crafting an outsize persona, proclaiming himself an Afro-futurist visionary from Saturn who believed that, because planet earth was doomed, “space is the place.” His music was a singular mix of big-band arrangements influenced by Fletcher Henderson, Duke Ellington, and Tad Dameron, free-jazz improvisation, hard-bop rhythms, experiments with electronic keyboards, and African and Latin grooves; his live shows were vaudevillian affairs featuring dancers, fire-eaters, and colorful costumes. But though he was a very active performer in Chicago during the late 50s, he was also an obscure one, playing mainly for small black audiences.

Corbett bought the lot from the salvager (he declines to say how much he paid), and for the past six years he and his wife, Terri Kapsalis, along with a crew of volunteers and advisers, have painstakingly sorted through his purchase, which filled two 10-by-12-foot storage spaces. “You had little eureka moments that were mind-boggling,” Corbett says. “I had the great joy of looking through a box and finding a manila envelope that said ‘one of everything,’ and it contained a huge collection of original manuscripts for Sun Ra’s broadsheets and leaflets that he made in the 50s.” Hundreds of hours of audiotape — including studio masters, readings, rehearsals, and interviews — are now housed in the Creative Audio Archive at the Andersonville nonprofit Experimental Sound Studio. They’re being transferred to digital formats and annotated; once that process is completed, says Corbett, the tapes will be available to scholars and a full list of their contents will be placed online.

Some of that material has already made its way to the public. Corbett has issued two CDs of previously unreleased music, 2002′s Music From Tomorrow’s World and 2003′s Spaceship Lullaby, on his Unheard Music Series label. And in August [2006] local publisher WhiteWalls released The Wisdom of Sun Ra, a fascinating collection of his broadsheets, which combined black nationalist philosophy, biblical allusions, and elaborate — if fantastical and absurd — etymological theories. (“Negroes belong to the race of Mu,” he wrote in one broadsheet. “Another way to spell Mu is moo. Moo means low. That’s the cow’s word. Negroes are Mr. Moo.”)

From the moment he discovered the material, Corbett wanted to keep it together as a singular archive of Sun Ra’s Chicago years, and he hopes eventually to find an institutional home for it. “It only articulates a story if it’s together,” he says. “Little bits and pieces of it are collectorfetish ephemera, but when it’s all together you start to see this interesting phenomenon . . . which is the way that Ra sort of fit into a southside Afro-futurist community of thinkers, designers, and musicians who were all pondering the future, independent businesses, and separatism.”

Corbett first learned about the existence of Sun Ra’s Chicago writings when he interviewed Abraham in 1993 for his ’94 book, Extended Play [Duke Univ. Press]. But until he came across this material, there was little documentation of Sun Ra’s life in the 50s in the public realm — the sole example of his writings from this period was a broadsheet he gave to John Coltrane. “[The archive] sheds some light and fills in a lot of details,” says Yale professor John Szwed, author of the definitive Sun Ra biography, 1997′s Space Is the Place. “It puts him in the middle of what was being discussed in the parks those days, where there was a real tradition of political and theological discussion.”

The show at the Hyde Park Art Center, which was curated by Corbett, Kapsalis, and WhiteWalls editor Anthony Elms, has multiple parts. “Pathways to Unknown Worlds” features more than 60 pieces of art on the walls and numerous display cases containing Sun Ra-related arcana, such as notebooks and homemade instruments; two multimedia rooms will present a pair of Sun Ra documentaries, a slide show of photos, and two hours of his music, most of it previously unreleased. Elms and Northwestern University art history professor Huey Copeland have organized a second exhibit that opens October 15 [2006], “Interstellar Low Ways,” which collects work by artists influenced by Sun Ra, including legendary Parliament-Funkadelic album artist Pedro Bell, composer Charlemagne Palestine, local cartoonist Plastic Crimewave, and members of the Destroy All Monsters art and music collective. Both exhibits run through January 14, 2007.

In addition, Corbett has organized a two-day symposium on November 11 and 12 [2006] called “Traveling the Spaceways,” where Szwed and other Sun Ra scholars will join artists and art historians to discuss his work. Actress Cheryl Lynn Bruce will read from his writings, and various musicians, including Nicole Mitchell, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Thurston Moore, and Ken Vandermark, will play music by and inspired by Sun Ra. Lastly, on December 3 the Chicago Cultural Center will host a discussion and performance featuring original members of the Arkestra and other associates.

Though nothing has been finalized, Corbett says he plans to tour “Pathways to Unknown Worlds” around the country and Europe as he begins to search for a permanent home for the archive. But for now he’s giddy about finally revealing what he’s been processing for six years. “Finding this stuff was like a lightning bolt hitting me,” he says. “It’s just about the most exciting thing I’ve ever done. It’s been a thrill, and I wanted to share it with as many people as I could.”

Related Links:

Aliens and Music — Two Great Tastes That Taste Great Together

Somewhere in my web trollings I happened upon the song “Sky Men” performed by Geoff Goddard. An early ’60s British pop ditty with a for-me irresistible double KO of an alien theme and a killer gritty organ/proto-synth keyboard part, I can’t get the damn thing out of my head. It’s endearingly cheesoid, and I’m singing the thing in the shower, folks.

Photo of Joe Meek before early-'60s-vintage recording studio gear.Turns out, “Sky Men” was produced by one Joe Meek, an outsider producer lunatic genius (and slightly tone-deaf songwriter) who I’m now ashamed to say I was not aware of previously, although we’ve all heard his greatest hit, “Telstar” by The Tornadoes.

In addition to cutting-edge recording science, Mr. Meek had an abiding interest in space and aliens and the occult, to the extent that in 1959 he composed the concept album I Hear a New World — an Outer Space Music Fantasy, which he described as his attempt “to create a picture in music of what could be up there in outer space.” To realize his vision, Meek called upon a skiffle group he had worked with previously, The West Five, and re-christened them The Blue Men (a point of personal synchronicity I may expand upon some other time). Quoting further from Wikipedia:

“At first [Meek explained] I was going to record it with music that was completely out of this world but realised that it would have very little entertainment value so I kept the construction of the music down to earth.” This he (as producer) achieved by blending The Blue Men’s skiffle/rock and roll style with a range of sound and effects, created by such kitchen-sink methods as blowing bubbles in water with a straw, draining water out of the sink, shorting an electrical circuit, and even banging partly-filled milk bottles with spoons; yet one must listen carefully to detect these prosaic origins in the finished product. Another important feature of the recordings is the very early use of stereophony.

While the entire album was completed and slated for a 1960 release, only a 4-song EP ever saw the official light of day via the financially doomed label, Triumph Records. Fortunately, a few promo copies of the full album did circulate and were preserved by collectors, permitting grey-market releases many years later.

Meanwhile, the good folks of Comfort Stand Records, an internet label offering free music, offer a compilation of rare Joe Meek demo recordings which I commend to you. (Also available via Archive.org.) While you’re there, you may also wanna check out Comfort Stand’s 2-CD compilation, Interplanetary Materials, though I ain’t heared it yet and can’t attest one way or ‘tother.

Alas, Joe Meek suffered a singularly strange and tragic end. As related here, “Joe had a vision during a tarot card reading that his idol, Buddy Holly, with whom he was deeply in love, would die tragically on February 3rd, 1958. When the day came to pass, Joe informed Buddy of his prediction and told him how glad he was it hadn’t come true. Buddy Holly, of course, died on February 3rd 1959 [exactly one year later] in an horrible plane crash…”

Already prone to paranoia and manic depression, this incident apparently precipitated a further decline in Meeks’ mental health. This was not at all helped by the fact that he was gay — literally a crime in Britain in those days — and as the ’60s progressed there were increasingly draconian police crackdowns on “poofters.” In January 1967, police discovered a suitcase containing the mutilated body of a male prostitute who had at one time been associated with Meeks, though whether he was connected with the crime was apparently never conclusively shown. The murder became a public scandal, and with the police saying they would be interviewing all known homosexuals in the city, Meeks’ paranoia intensified still further. Whatever transpired, on the eighth anniversary of Buddy Holly’s death, Meeks killed his landlady and then himself with a shotgun.

Today, a line of top-notch professional mics and compression gear continues to carry the Joe Meek imprimatur.

CD/LP cover of 'Music of the Future' by Desmond Lesllie - early British musique concrete. Another amazing discovery I’ve recently made (and one unburdened by tragedy) is the wonderful and nearly-lost-forever musique concrete works of one Desmond Leslie (1921-2001). While Joe Meek was basically just an alien fan boy, Desmond Leslie was practically hanging out with them: he co-wrote George Adamski‘s landmark UFO contactee book, Flying Saucers Have Landed (1953) and, by his own account, had several UFO sightings while visiting Adamski in California in 1954.

Coming from an Irish aristocratic family — complete with castle in County Monaghan — that “can trace their ancestry back to Atilla The Hun,” Desmond Leslie was able to support other endeavors that included writing and directing a couple science fiction films and brief but very worthwhile travels in electronic music.

During the late ’50s, while living in London, Leslie built a small private studio where he created a number of really quite good musique concrete works, which have been released recently on the CD Music of the Future from Trunk Records. Quoting from that release’s liner notes:

“…[T]he recordings that exist were privately issued by Leslie himself (and just for friends) on a single acetate called Music of the Future, in 1959. These pressings are exceptionally rare and of very poor quality [due to the fragile nature of acetate records]. All Leslie recordings were later licensed to Josef Weinberger, the famous London publishers. Leslie’s extraordinary recordings were pressed onto a short series of 78 rpm library discs, and were put to occasional use in science and mystery based programming, such as the early Dr. Who episodes.”

Except for that extremely limited release (and much to the chagrin of Mr. Leslie), Music of the Future dwelt in unjust obscurity for some 45 years…until 2005, when Trunk Records stepped up to the plate (or platter, as the case may be) and released the entire album on CD, with very well restored audio and complete with Leslie’s original liner notes. These include the following clues to his composerly philosophy:

“It is possible, perhaps, to abolish melody, form and thematic development when writing for the conventional orchestra which, like the frame of an abstract painting, of its essence, sets some limits even to the most anarchal frenzy. Abolish the orchestra as well and you are a creator without reference points, a creator in a pristine void. ‘Musique Concrete’ therefore must set its own aesthetic limitations, discover its own rules, and discipline itself.

“…Some composers of electronic music, ‘Musique Exotique’ and ‘Musique Concrete’ shudder at the least hint of emotion, thematic development, or any sound the least pleasing to the ear. …Why shouldn’t a sound be beautiful? Must the cult of Ugly, and the Highpriesthood of Drears have the final word on everything concerning the senses? The world is so full of beautiful and subtle sounds; and to capture these and present them in an original form, unashamed if they happen to please emotion as well as mind, is the motivation behind this work.

“Put this record on a good Hi-Fi set. Twiddle the knobs till you find the levels you like. Tell the neighbors to go to hell (they’ll probably only think it’s the plumbing). Sit back and enjoy yourself.

“My MUSIQUE CONCRETE is meant to be enjoyed.”

And enjoyable it is, indeed, though not nearly as pastoral as the above might lead one to believe. The disc is divided into four sections: “Theme music from the [apparently unreleased] film ‘The Day The Sky Fell In’”, “Music of the Voids of Outerspace” [sic], “Sacrifice, B.C. 5,000″, and “Death of Satan” — the latter two being especially appealing to my ears. Highly recommended.

With this rescued acetate Leslie is proved to be a neglected and nearly forgotten early master of tape music. You can (and should!) buy the CD of Desmond Leslie’s Music of the Future online while it still lasts via Ye Olde Trunkshoppe. Based in Britain, prices are in pounds but I can attest that the shopping experience for us Colonists is painless, and delivery is prompt and well-packaged for shipment across the big pond.

Cover of the 'Secrets of the Sun' LP by Sun Ra and His Solar Arkestra (Saturn Records)

And naturally no discussion of aliens and music, or music qua aliens, would be remotely complete without a mention of Sun Ra. On that polyphonous note, I suggest stopping by the “sharity” site church number nine, which has been posting with some regularity complete, high-quality MP3 rips of otherwise long-unavailable limited edition vinyl LPs from Ra’s own Saturn Records label, complete with large-ish scans of the covers (though you have to grab those from the pages [click 'em for the big versions] — for some reason they’re generally not included in the downloadable zips).

Recent offerings have included Secrets of the Sun (ca. 1965), Sun Ra and his Arkestra, Featuring Pharoah Sanders and Black Harold (1976), Sound Mirror (Live in Philadelphia ’78), and The Antique Blacks (There is Change in the Air) (Interplanetary Concepts), recorded live in 1974. There are more precious Saturn Records offerings further back in the archives (not to mention all sorts of delightful out jazz rarities). The older download links may have expired — but if you ask very nicely they might get re-upped. Meanwhile, more rare Sun Ra is promised in the near future.

Cover of the essential book 'The Wisdom of Sun Ra' edited by John Corbett (Chicago, IL: Whitewalls Press, 2006)And while it’s not audio, I would surely be remiss not to tell you, dear interstellar reader, of an incredible new-ish book, The Wisdom of Sun Ra: Sun Ra’s Polemical Broadsheets and Streetcorner Leaflets (Whitewalls Press, Chicago; 2006), compiled and introduced by the noted Chicago-based music writer John Corbett.

Run, don’t walk. The Wisdom of Sun Ra is an anthology of some of Ra’s earliest philosophical and religious writings dating from the early and mid-’50s in Chicago. This collection of writings, originally distributed hand-to-hand as mimeographs and intended for an exclusively black audience, were discovered in 2000 (appropriately enough) at an unnamed location on Chicago’s South Side in a folder labeled “One of Everything.” Apparently, these priceless documents were nearly destroyed, saved only by some unelucidated cosmic providence. As such this slim volume provides an absolutely invaluable (superlatives fail me here) glimpse into Sun Ra’s cosmology, mysticism, and racial/political analysis just as it was taking form.

As Corbett explains in his excellent introduction:

“Parallel with his secret musical activities [in Chicago ca. the early 1950s], Ra became the focal point of a secret reading group, together with his patron and later business manager Alton Abraham and a small cluster of South Side intellectuals. This group would eventually call itself Thmei Research, and its activities included the composition of a new dictionary based on Sun Ra’s intensely creative revisionist etymologies and the scholarly findings of the group.

“Street-corner preaching was one of the primary outlets for Ra’s findings, both on his own and as part of Thmei. …In these early broadsheet writings Ra was exclusively addressing a black audience. …As such, he didn’t pull any punches in his assessment of race and power. …On other corners there were Baptist preachers and Nation of Islam proselytizers. Ra’s declarations were in direct dialogue with those other figures of affiliated African-American intellectual life.

“Ra’s preachings was accompanied by writings — booklets, pamphlets and broadsides some of which were mimeographed and handed out to people on the street as well as members of the [Sun Ra] band. They were sometimes unsigned, sometimes signed ‘Ra’ or ‘Sun’ or ‘El.’”

And these are them. What…you’re still reading this? Click the damn link above and buy the thing already!

[Update: If you're interested in Sun Ra, you should read my follow-up post with the back-story on the rescue of these papers and much else besides. I also failed to mentioned that The Wisdom of Sun Ra consists of photographic reproductions of the originals.]

And since I’ve already mentioned sharity sites — and after all that book readin’ — I should prolly point y’all to some easily digestible music singles courtesy of the UFOMystic blog, run by Greg Bishop and Nick Redfern, who have compiled (among much else) a number of entertaining posts devoted to Flying Saucer Music, each featuring one fine close encounter of the (often kitschy) musical kind. Even if a couple-few are also available from that Mugu Brainpan stalwart, WFMU’s Beware of the Blog and their 2007 edition of the 365 Days Project, it’s a bee-line to the alien mind, yo, and unlike WFMU you can either (usually) download or stream via Flash widget.

(Downloader tip: If one of the links below doesn’t include a download link do this [simpler than it sounds]: View Source, do a Find on “.mp3″, copy that full URL, then go here and paste that URL in the blank labeled “Encoded,” and click the “URLDecode” button, copy the new URL in the blank labeled “Plain,” and use that URL to download the audio file to your hard drive.)

Offerings include:

And finally, the true alien audio fanatic would do very well indeed to pay a visit to the Faded Discs web site, an “audio archive of UFO history” run by one Wendy Connors. Ms. Connors offers some astonishing MP3 collections on CD, each running anywhere from 24-35 hours of total running time, and consisting of primary audio documents of UFOlogy, including original recordings of witness reports (the holy grail of all true researchers) to contactee babbles to rare radio & TV appearances by all and sundry.

Some of the most alluring titles are inexplicably and damnably no longer available, but what’s currently offered is still worth your archival lucre. For example, Saucerology (35 1/2 hours) includes all sorts of interviews, lectures, and whatnot by first-wave contactees (including a 23 min. interview of George Adamski by the aforementioned Desmond Leslie); Project Blue Book (27 hours) features the recorded words of direct participants in the earliest official and secret USAF investigations, from Project SIGN through GRUDGE and right up to Blue Book — including recordings of J. Allen Hynek debunking UFOs (he who later did a 180 on that point), interviews with Captain Edward J. Ruppelt, and way too much more.

Not least of the Faded Discs offerings is Research Recordings of Robert Gribble’s National UFO Reporting Center (NUFORC), Seattle, WA, 1974 – 1977, an incredible 44-hour collection of recorded witness accounts and interviews. As Connors explains on her site:

Robert Gribble began his research into the unidentified flying object phenomena in 1955. He began the Aerial Phenomena Research Group (APRG), which circulated a newsletter detailing new cases. [Not to be confused with Jim and Coral Lorenzen's group, APRO.]
In late 1974, Gribble converted the Phenomena Research Reporting Center to allow the public a place they could call and report their experiences to a nonjudgmental researcher. Commonly known as the UFO Reporting Center or UFO Central during the early years, it became known internationally as the National UFO Reporting Center (NUFORC). First calls received began on November 11, 1974.

Over a period of twenty years, Gribble received thousands of telephone calls from witnesses of actual encounters with UFOs, which were recorded and data collected. On-site investigations and interviews were conducted by Gribble and his associates and accompanying documentation for cases were archived.

Robert Gribble retired from research in 1994 and Peter Davenport took over the on-going data collection of the National UFO Reporting Center. In 2004, Robert Gribble donated his research materials to Wendy Connors, culminating in this audio archive of research material. Documentation accompanying these recordings are maintained along with the original recording sources, including the names, addresses and telephone numbers of all witnesses. What you hear is raw, minimally edited, research. Most of the interviews were done within minutes of the encounter or while the encounter was happening.

These recordings are of actual witness interviews to UFO encounters and were selected to show a broad based overview of the UFO phenomena being observed and reported.

I’m sayin’. To get a taste, you can read a sampling of ARPG reports compiled in the undated article “ETs from ???” archived at think-aboutit.com.
Definitely give Faded Discs a visit!

Oh, gotta go — my sinus implant is humming. Be Seeing You…