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Collecting Sun Ra, Pioneer of Afro-Futurism Jazz

Collector and jazz historian John Szwed, in conversation with curator Samantha Hill, discusses the archive he assembled on the influential Philadelphia Jazz artist Sun Ra.

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October 20, 2023, 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Open to the Public

Hosted by: Kislak Center

Sun Ra, poster for Intergalactic Infinity Arkestra

Musician. Poet. Teacher. Mystic. Pioneer of Afro-Futurism Jazz. These words only begin to describe the deeply compelling artist known as Sun Ra (1914-1993). Over the course of his lifetime, Sun Ra and his “Arkestra” released more than forty studio albums and mesmerized live audiences with a sonic and visual mélange informed by Ancient Egypt and Science Fiction.

Born in Alabama, Sun Ra’s musical career took shape in Chicago and New York. In 1968 he relocated to the Germantown section of Philadelphia, which would serve as the base of operations for the Arkestra for decades to come. As a result, his musical influence continues to thrive in and across the city.

The Kislak Center has recently acquired two important collections that will help scholars to better understand Sun Ra’s legacy, including the research file of jazz historian John Szwed, whose Space is the Place: The Lives and Times of Sun Ra was first published in 1997. Civic Engagement Curator Samantha Hill will be in conversation with Szwed about the archive he assembled while researching and writing the biography and its potential for research, teaching, and outreach.

Featured Image: Sun Ra Intergalactic Infinity Arkestra at Happy Medium, Saturday & Sunday September 9 & 10, [1972]. Offset printed poster advertising show, printed both sides, recto in black ink and verso in blue ink with ink smear across top of sheet. 12 x 16 in. Chicago, IL: El Saturn Research, 1972.