Book Review: Rock & Roll Books

A Pure Solar World: Sun Ra and the Birth of Afrofuturism

Rock & Roll Books

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 Afrofuturism

by Paul Youngquist
University of Texas Press, 372 pp., $27.95

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Sun Ra
Mothership Connection
Mothership Connection
Banging hip-hop from worlds away

Chase Hoffberger, July 25, 2008

More Music Reviews
Jimmy Buffett: A Good Life All the Way
Jimmy Buffett: A Good Life All the Way
The Parrothead behind the empire

Doug Freeman, July 21, 2017

All Over the Map, True Heroes of Texas Music
All Over the Map, True Heroes of Texas Music

Kevin Curtin, June 16, 2017

More by Jay Trachtenberg
Jay Trachtenberg's Top Reads of 2017
Four novels depict conflict and compassion in WWII Ukraine, present-day Pakistan and Israel, and a future America

Dec. 29, 2017

Top 10 National Albums of 2017
Top 10 National Albums of 2017
National themed lists

Dec. 29, 2017


Sun Ra, Gift Guide 2016, Herman Blount

AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2017

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle