Book Review: Rock & Roll Books
A Pure Solar World: Sun Ra and the Birth of Afrofuturism
Reviewed by Jay Trachtenberg, Fri., Dec. 9, 2016
Here's a valiant and largely successful effort to put into context the tenets of Afrofuturism, a fascination with ancient Egypt, and intergalactic space jazz, all pillars in the amazing career of pianist, composer, bandleader, activist, and Saturnian Herman "Sonny" Blount, aka Sun Ra (1914-1993). In so doing, Paul Youngquist, English professor at University of Colorado Boulder, presents a dense, academic assessment that's enlightening but best suited for die-hard fans. He cedes to and often quotes from the more traditionally linear biographical terrain of John Szwed's acclaimed 1997 Space Is the Place: The Lives and Times of Sun Ra. While building a framework for his subject's social activism through music, Youngquist also takes long, if intriguing, detours into the NASA space program, "interplanetary exotica," and "immeasurable equations." Once the dust clears, Sun Ra's pioneering use of early electronic keyboards including the mini-Moog reiterate that space is still the place.
A Pure Solar World: Sun Ra and the Birth of Afrofuturismby Paul Youngquist
University of Texas Press, 372 pp., $27.95