Sun Ra, The Substitute Words: Poetry, 1957-72

Chicago’s Corbett vs. Dempsey Gallery Highlights the Poetry of The Father of Afrofuturism, March 26 – April 24, 2021

Sun Ra (1914-1993) is known as one of the great visionary musical figures of the 20th century, but the scope of his project goes much further than jazz and stage performance. Source: https://www.corbettvsdempsey.com

It has been 21 years since Le Sony’r Ra (born Herman Poole Blount) has left our physical plane (he did not like to discuss dates of birth of death, according to Ra Biographer, John Szwed), but the breadth of his prolific output and the depth of his influence is still being unearthed and measured.

This particular exhibition examines the visionary musician’s poetry as an integral part of his creative ethos and artistic identity.

Mounted on the occasion of Corbett vs. Dempsey’s release of four facsimile editions of Ra’s poetry books the show gathers original copies of these ultra-rare objects, as well as working materials used in their production. Source: https://www.corbettvsdempsey.com

According to the gallery’s press release, “He [Sun Ra] was fascinated by what he called “the multi-self words,” summoning language’s power to conjure the paradoxical, succinctly suggesting: “The idea that words/Can form themselves into the impossible/Then the way to the impossible/Is through the words.” 

A timely concept from a Man who was always ahead of his time.

An Appreciation for the “Screaming Eagle of Soul” Charles Bradley

“I’m gonna say it’s all right to dream, but work at it — make it come to reality”…”It took 62 years for somebody to find me, but I thank God. Some people never get found.”
—Charles Bradley

Charles Edward Bradley: November 5th, 1948—September 23rd, 2017.

On Saturday, September 23rd, 2017 the living embodiment of Soul and aural force of nature Charles Edward Bradley passed from this existence onto another spiritual plane (for a have no doubt of his transition amongst the Angels) after a long, private struggle with Cancer.

Bradley served as a link in the long, long chain of famous and unknown individuals expressing the African experience in America through song: from field songs to Gospel to Jazz to Blues to Rock n’ Roll to Soul music.

Watch him transform Black Sabbath’s Changes into a soul masterpiece and a fitting epitaph for a great artist who channeled his great pain into something beautiful.

The world is a little darker today, yet Heaven is a little brighter because of Brother Charles. He was, and is, one of the best and he will be missed.

Rest in Peace, Reside in Power.

Start Where You Are. Use What You Have. Create Your Own World.

 “Inspiration is everywhere”
—Henri Matisse.

This summer I attended the “Matisse in the Studio” show at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and what struck me most about the exhibit was Henri Matisse’s intense discipline and boundless creativity within his controlled, yet curated environment.

 

So for those who are waiting and searching for inspiration to visit—just get on with it!

Happy Birthday to “Invisible Man” Author Ralph Ellison

“I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allen Poe; nor am I one of those Hollywood-movie ectoplasms.”

American writer, essayist, and musician Ralph Ellison was born March 1, 1914.

One of my favorite books of all time is Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man: a complex, sprawling, and uncompromising rumination on race, class, and identity in Mid-Century America:

Invisible Man, First Edition, 1952.

” I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids–and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.”

It is a book that reveals deeper levels and new revelations with each reading:

“Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass.”

Invisible Man, 2012 cover designed by Cardon Webb.

Considered to be a seminal novel of the 20th century, it is a nightmarish journey of psychological angst and societal madness as told through the narrative of a nameless protagonist.

CODA: If you haven’t read the novel (or if you haven’t cracked it open since high school or college), I would highly recommend the experience:

“When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination–indeed, everything and anything except me.”

 

Emily McDowell’s New Book Expands Upon Her Honest Design About Serious Illness

The book “There Is Not a Good Card For This” expands upon Emily McDowell’s line of cards to address serious illness.

Two years ago, I wrote a feature for TLS about Emily McDowell’s straightforward and often humorous line of empathy cards borne out of her own battle at age 24 with Stage 3 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

This small, personal project has evolved into a larger, collaborative book, There is No Good Card for This (the title, inspired by the name of one of Emily’s cards) with Kelsey Crowe, Ph.D. to help individuals chart a meaningful course of action “when life is scary, awful, and unfair to people you love”.

 

Divided into three parts, the book’s practical,  conversational prose perfectly mirrors Emily’s spare and insightful illustration style—she is masterful at distilling complex subjects and concepts into warm and meaningful forms.

Congratulations Emily and Kelsey on the new book. And thank you for transforming illness, struggle, and pain into meaning, purpose, and beauty that benefits us all.

Todd.

CODA: Listen to Emily discuss the new book on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Celebrating the Immortality of David Bowie

Gifted with the benefit of hindsight, we are aware of Bowie’s terminal illness during the conceptualization and execution of his final album Blackstar with the Donny McCaslin Quartet so it is surprising that hours before what would have been David Bowie’s 70th birthday (and several days before the anniversary of his passing) a Tom Hingston-directed video for the ironically titled “No Plan” has been released online.

Even from beyond, Bowie remains a beautifully enigmatic and otherworldly creative presence with the ability the stimulate our intellect and touch our hearts.

We are all the richer for his efforts: Peace, Blessings, and Godspeed David.

CODA: Explore the world of the album’s title track:

A Decade on One Design? Lost Art Describes Working with the Avalanches

Design is hard.

Working on a singular project for a decade is commitment:

“it is more important for us to be creating beautiful, progressive, rewarding work with our partners than it is to take on every new client we can.” —Lost Art

The design firm Lost Art collaborated with the music outfit The Avalanches more than ten years as their second album Wildflower was in development.

As reviewed in this blog in September, Wildflower is an exceptional album—a sonic collision of genres transcending time and space and one of my favorite releases of 2016.

CODA: Check out “The Was”, a video piece created by the art collective Soda_Jerk and the Avalanches:

 

 

 

The Perfect Antidote for the End of the Year Blues

You’re angry, confused, and more than a little fearful as this tumultuous year draws to a close.

I feel your pain.

But no matter what the future holds for us, NOW is the time to rest our bodies, broaden our knowledge, and rejuvenate our souls to make our families, communities, and country a better place.

“The Rhythm Changes” and we are still here:

Jazz Avatar Kamasi Washington from 2015’s The Epic

Peace and Love,

Todd.

Google Cardboard Provides A Taste of Virtual Reality for $15 USD

Google Cardboard transforms your smartphone into a Virtual Reality (VR) viewer in seconds!
Google Cardboard transforms your smartphone into a Virtual Reality (VR) viewer in seconds!

During a summer playdate with my best friend and our kids, he exposed me to Google Cardboard via a player received in the post from the New York Times VR (a recently launched content provider for Cardboard).  After slipping on a pair of headphones and staring deeply into headpiece (which conspicuously resembles the old, static View Master), I was blown away by the seemingly effortless experience of swimming underwater with dolphins, climbing the spire of the new World Trade Center, and exploring the history of Cuban Dance.

Despite the fact that Cardboard is 360-degree video and isn’t true virtual reality it is an astounding, immersive experience for only $15 and the content being created for the player (many of them free) is equally impressive!

But, don’t take my word for it, explore it yourself:

“Bring virtual reality to life with Google Cardboard. Using your smartphone and VR apps, this quality viewer puts the world of VR right in your hands, affordably.”