Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise (1980) - full transcript

Robert Mugge filmed jazz great Sun Ra on location in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. between 1978 and 1980. The resulting 60-minute film includes multiple public and private performances, poetry readings, a band rehearsal, interviews, and extensive improvisations. Transferred to HD from the original 16mm film and lovingly restored for the best possible viewing experience.

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- Planet Earth can't even be sufficient

without the rain, it doesn't
produce rain you know.

Sunshine, it doesn't produce the sun.

The wind, it doesn't produce the wind.

All Planet Earth produces is

the dead bodies of humanity.

That's it's only creation.

Everything else comes from outer space.

From unknown regions.

Humanity's life depends upon the unknown.

Knowledge...



Is laughable when
attributed to a human being.

("Astro Black" by Sun Ra)

♪ Strobe light mythology ♪

♪ Astro time-less immortality ♪

♪ Astro thought and mystic sound ♪

♪ Astro black of outer space ♪

♪ Astro natural dark is dark ♪

♪ Astro reach beyond the stars ♪

♪ Out to endless, endless death ♪

♪ Astro black cosmo Earth ♪

♪ The Universe is in my voice ♪

♪ The Universe speaks through this song ♪

♪ To those of Earth and of the World ♪

♪ Listen while you have the chance ♪



♪ Find your place among the stars ♪

♪ Get in tune with outer worlds ♪

♪ Without multiplicity ♪

♪ Harmony equational melody ♪

♪ Rise on speed ♪

♪ Astro black and cosmo dark ♪

♪ Astro black and cosmo dark ♪

♪ Astro black and cosmo dark ♪

- One day it will happen,
it could be happenin' now.

That a voice from another dimension

will speak to Earth, you
might as well practice

and be prepared for it.

("Along Came Ra/The
Living Myth" by Sun Ra)

♪ When the world was in darkness ♪

♪ And darkness was ignorance ♪

♪ Along came Ra ♪

♪ Along came Ra ♪

♪ When the world was in darkness ♪

♪ And darkness was ignorance ♪

♪ Along came Ra ♪

♪ Along came Ra ♪

♪ Thy living this ♪

♪ Thy living this ♪

♪ Thy living this ♪

♪ Thy living this ♪

♪ Thy living this ♪

♪ Thy living this ♪

♪ Story ♪

♪ Thy living this ♪

♪ Thy living this ♪

♪ Thy living this ♪

♪ Thy living this ♪

♪ Thy living this ♪

♪ Thy living this ♪

♪ Story ♪

- I have many names, names of mystery.

Names of splendor, names of shame.

I have many names, some call me Mister Ra,

others call me mystery, you
can call me Mister Mystery.

("Mister Ra/Mystery" by Sun Ra)

The chaos on this planet is due

to the music that musicians are playin',

that they are forced to
play by some who just think

of money, and don't realize that music

is a spiritual language,

and it represents the people of Earth.

When musicians are
compelled to play anything,

it goes straight to the
throne of the creator

of the Universe, and
that is how he sees you,

according to your music, because see,

music is a universal language,
and what you call musicians

that play, it's what goes to the creator

as your personal ambassador,
and your personal nemesis.

(avant-garde jazz)

With all the churches you've got,

and all the schools you've got,

all the governments you've
got, you're supposed

to have a better plan than this.

Worldly man has failed, spiritually,

educationally,
governmentally, he's failed.

Worldly, he should be a good
sport and say I give up,

I need help, what I am
right here is a bridge

for them to get help,
when they could listen

to see what am I talking about.

They'd get a surprise,
because I'm talking about

equations that are in their books.

Books from way back in ancient Egypt,

in Greece, and Rome,
and their philosophers

have been talking, a touch
of everything I'm talkin'.

("Calling Planet Earth" by Sun Ra)

♪ Calling planet Earth, ♪
calling planet Earth

♪ Calling planet Earth, ♪
calling planet Earth

♪ I am a different order of being ♪

♪ Calling planet Earth, I am ♪
a different order of being

♪ I will be coming your ♪
way soon, planet Earth

♪ Calling planet Earth, I ♪
will be visiting you soon

♪ On every hill, every
dell, every valley ♪

♪ Every home, every place, I ♪
am a different order of being

♪ I represent a different
kind of horizon ♪

♪ Another kind of sunrise, ♪
another kind of sunset

♪ Sunrise, sunset, same sun ♪
is shinin' never shinin' in ♪

Every song I write, tells a story,

a story that humanity needs to know about.

In my music, I speak of unknown things.

And possible things, ancient
things, potential things.

No two songs tell the same story.

They say that history repeats itself,

but history is only his story.

We haven't heard my story yet.

My story is different from his story.

My story is not part of history.

Because history repeats itself,

but my story is in this,
that never repeats itself.

Why should it?

A sunset does not repeat itself,

neither does the sunrise.

Nature never repeats itself,
why should I repeat myself

("Space Loneliness Blues" by Sun Ra)

Somehow ancient Egypt is thought
of as a kingdom of bondage.

It would be better to say,
the kingdom of discipline.

The kingdom of precision,
the kingdom of culture,

beauty, art, would be better to say that,

because this is the proof of it.

The stones speak, the
stones are speaking through

vibrations of beauty,
vibrations of discipline,

vibrations of precision,
yes the stones speak

to the people of planet Earth.

If teenagers are lost, it is because they

have been feared upon the
word freedom not discipline.

- Well some writers, a nice group that,

I live a few doors away from Sun Ra,

is a nice group, players
who are performing Sun Ra

are nice men, because I see them everyday,

and Sun Ra's music is good music.

- And one of them owns a store,

and they be at you like, the space,

and things like that, and
they're alright people.

(store chatter)

- Yeah the story was
started because I feel

somethin' needed to be
done in the neighborhood

for the ones who'll listen,
the young ones who'll listen,

and I believe in discipline,
and I believe children

should be taught discipline
from a young age.

When they get older, there
won't be no problems.

I've been over here
about a year and a half,

the Pharaoh's Den, and another
reason the store was started,

I wanted to do somethin' in
the name of ancient pharaohs,

and very few people do things

in the name of the ancient pharaohs.

Well now you see right over there,

I've got a sign, space
is the place, so I try

to teach the children about space,

outer space, precision and discipline,

and like on our side of my science,

they feel afraid of the nations
of the world for seven years

so I might be here seven years maybe.

- [Sun Ra] They said that
the language of ancient Egypt

is no longer spoken,

but nature never loses anything.

It is still spoken.

I'm sitting in front of the White House,

lookin' over across the
street, but I don't see

the black house, that's
where it ought to be,

because you can't have a white house,

if you don't have a black house.

In fact, you can't have
anything unless you

have a comparison, you can't have a good

government unless you
have an evil government.

You can't have righteousness
unless you've got

the wicked with you,
you can't have anything

without its parallel and its opposite.

This is something that the people of Earth

aren't aware of, you can't
have a Justice department

that goes out lookin' for only criminals,

and never go out lookin' for people

who are doing good.

You can't have justice
if you penalize people

for doing wrong, and don't
do anything to help them

when they tryin' to do right.

- [Voiceover] Sun Ra,
could you tell us why

you're here tonight?

- Well, I'd just like to play
a requiem for Trevor Johnson,

a former member of the
band who left the planet

about the previous year.

- [Voiceover] Does this have
any special meaning for you?

- The requiem?

Well it'd be the first time one would root

for a poor, unfortunate man.

(applause)

("Requiem for Trevor Johnson" by Sun Ra)

Those of the reality have lost their way.

Now they must listen to
what myth has to say.

Those of the reality, have
been bruised and beaten

by the truths, those of the reality

have been slaves of a bad truth.

So there's nothin' left now but the myth.

The myth is neither bad nor good.

It's potentials are unlimited.

Somewhere else on the
other side of nowhere,

there's another place in space,

beyond what you know as time.

Where the gods of mythology dwell.

Gods that are not real to you.

Gods who have created the illusion

that they do not exist to
the people of planet Earth.

These gods dwell in their mythocracy.

Opposed to your theocracy,
and your democracy,

and your monacracy.

They dwell in their
mythocracy, a magic world

that makes things to be, these gods

can even offer you immortality.

("'Round Midnight" by
Thelonious Monk/Cootie Williams)

We hold this myth to be potential.

They hold their truths to be self-evident,

but our myth is not self-evident,
because it is a mystery.

I'm not part of history, I'm more a part

of the mystery, which is my story.

(saxophone solo)

- [Voiceover] Why is one of
the most highly respected

saxophone players in the country,

stayed so many years with Sun Ra.

- Well he was the first
one to really introduce me

into how forms of music, you know,

pair, for what you might would say,

what Bird, and Monk, and
the fellows were doin'.

I didn't think anybody was ahead of them,

until I met Sun Ra, you know,

and I played with him, on and off,

for about six months, and
I could read real well,

and I just come out the
Army playin' solo clarinets,

so reading was no problem.

Any music that he showed
me, I could read it

pretty well, but I didn't
really understand it.

I couldn't hear it for about six months.

Then one night, I heard it.

We were playin' this number Saturn,

I had been playin' it for six
months every time we worked,

but then I really heard the
intervals this one night,

and I said, my gosh, this man is

more stretched out than Monk.

It's unbelievable that anybody could write

any meaner intervals than
Monk or Mingus you know,

but he does, his intervals,
his knowledge of intervals

and harmony, very highly
advanced you know,

so when I saw that, I said well,

I think I'll make this the stop, you know.

("Ankh" by Sun Ra)

- About ten years ago, the New York Times

stated that I had bypassed the space age,

and I have, but the
space age can be a bridge

to the omniverse age, and
that's what I'm talkin' about

to members of the band,
hopin' that they will make it,

because it's judgment day for them as well

as for everybody else, as to
whether they can be accepted

by somethin' that's
totally pure and eternal,

and it's not based on righteousness,

and it's not based on evil, as I said,

they're teaching that God wants all the

righteous people, and they're teachin'

that the Devil wants
all un-righteous ones,

but they can't get in my band that way.

They might get in God's
heaven by bein' righteous,

and get in the Devil's
kingdom by bein' un-righteous.

That won't help them with me.

- There's about six or seven of us.

There's Marshall Allen, Eloe Omoe, Jacson,

Danny Thompson, Sun Ra, and myself,

and guests that come through you know,

there's always a place
downstairs for somebody,

but basically speaking, it's
between six to seven of us

living here at all times you know.

- [Voiceover] What is our plan man?

- Organizers, and everything
works out unbelievable.

Chaos, but if this works out,
it comes right on in together.

It's hard to even put down in
words, on paper, or on film.

- [Voiceover] You couldn't
say how that works out,

it just works out, it just works you know.

You can get somebody from Timbuktu man,

and you know if, or
Sunny's got that ability

that leaders have of being
able to pick the person

that's going to fit,
and they fit you know,

whether it's for one gig, ten gigs,

or for the rest of time you know?

- [Voiceover] It might be
at four in the morning,

it might be at six in
the morning, it might be

from six in the morning to 12 at night,

and you know, it might
be anytime you know,

you just have to be ready,
if you're out somewhere,

you better come on back in
and you know get to rehearsal.

- [Voiceover] Does that
hurt the social life?

- Social life?

No, in music you know you've
got folks go out there

in music right, now that's
their social life right?

Well I'm getting my social life here.

We have music all night, you know.

- Sometimes it's tough you know,

but the sincerity of wanting
to be a part of the music,

you don't really mind that you know,

at times you have to give
up a lot of pleasures

you want to get into, like maybe
goin' out to enjoy yourself

you can't do it, because you
gotta stay here and rehearse,

but once you get into the
music, you forget all about

the other thing that
happened, because the music

have you so into it, that the
rest of it don't even matter.

(avant-garde jazz)

- E flat.

(avant-garde jazz)

Leave out the end.

Leave out the end.

You better leave out the end.

Okay, one, two, one, two.

One, two, three, four.

(avant-garde jazz)

One, two, three, play.

(avant-garde jazz)

- Well I was going, you know, I'm gonna

live where Sun Ra lives, if he's a leader,

and you're followin' the leader,

you live where the leader lives.

You know it's the easiest
thing to me anyway now.

- I basically choose musicians who

believe in orchestration,
discipline, and precision.

Not too many musicians
have demonstrated that.

(avant-garde jazz)

- I named this drum, or rather,

Sun Ra did, name this drum
an ancient infinity lightning

wood drum, it got lightning
wood from the fact

that it was taken from a tree
that was struck by lightning

directly in back of me, which
is, you can see the remains

of it, the stump right opposite
the fence on the other side

of the fence, and the tree
was standing directly opposite

the house, 5626 Morton Street.

Now when lightning struck the tree,

and they came to cut down the remains

of the tree, and take it
off, I saw a large piece

of the wood, a large piece of the tree,

and decided to, or I had been
told I needed a drum anyway.

He told me one day, in the
next day, lightning struck

the tree across the street from the house,

and that started the
drum, so I spent a summer

hollowing it out, and
figuring out how to put a head

on it, and doing a base relief
carving on the face of it,

on the body of it, which
is a verse out of the book

of the reawakening,
which is an Egyptian book

commonly known as the book of the dead.

I had played drums on and off,

but you know just hand drums, kunga drums,

but I didn't really know
anything about drumming,

except what I had picked
up from other people.

Sun Ra of course showed me a whole 'nother

idea about drumming.

("Ancient Egyptian Infinity
Lightning Drum" by Sun Ra)

- It's better to deal with the people

who have intuition now.

You see they don't know
what they're doing.

The ones who do know what they're doing,

haven't proven anything.

("Rock-Si-Chord Solo" by Sun Ra)

The police knocked on the door,

and one of them said that
they had some complaints

from the neighbors, and it's

because of noise or something
like that, because the music,

that's what he said, and I told him

I wasn't playin' no music, I
was playin' a joyful noise,

and that's what the bible says.

It says make a joyful noise to the Lord.

("Organ Solo" by Sun Ra)

I myself am rising up above
what they call liberty,

and what they call equality,
and whatever man thinks

is the greatest thing, I
have to rise above that,

because I have to judge
a tree by the fruit.

I don't like what I see, I
don't want to be a part of it.

I'm not looking for liberty,
I'm not looking for equality,

I am movin' forward with my
music, universal language,

expressin' things of value,
and if that some people

want to listen, they're welcome.

I'm just like the birds, they sing.

Those who like it, can listen,

and those who don't, don't have to.

- You know it's follow the leader.

There's not too many
people that do that anymore

except children, there you know, in games.

I think everybody remembers
the games that they played

as children, follow the leaders, you know.

The one that made the best leader

was the one that did the
most outlandish thing,

or the thing that was not normal,

or the thing that wasn't common,

or the thing that was the most,

like a pilgrim like thing you know,

they went to new frontiers,
or they did something

that no one else thought to do.

♪ You people of planet Earth ♪

♪ You people of planet Earth ♪

♪ You on the spaceship Earth ♪

♪ You on the spaceship Earth ♪

♪ Destination unknown ♪

♪ Destination unknown ♪

("Spaceship Earth (Destination
Unknown)" by Sun Ra)

- That's what leadership is about.

If you've got a natural leader,

and that's what Sun Ra is to me,

a natural leader, then whatever he says

I don't really think
about it, I just react,

and you know, do what I'm told to do.

That way I've done an
incredible amount of things

that I don't know about you know.

Like building the drum, I
don't know anything about drums

for real, I mean you
know, on a conscious level

of saying I'm a drum builder.

- Leaders are not included

in the Declaration of Independence,

or the Constitution, this is
a government of the people,

for the people, and by the people.

Left leaders out, of course
when you make a declaration

of government, that's what it becomes.

So this government is one
side, it's a government

of the people, for the
people, and by the people,

and it has no place for leaders.

That's why I don't consider
myself as part of it,

because it hadn't anything for me.

Anytime you set up a
government just for the people,

and leave leaders out, it's most certain

is the worst type of discrimination.

You still got a man head
of the Ku Klux Klan,

sayin' that the black
people haven't contributed

as much to western
civilization as the horse.

So actually since I
don't consider myself as

one of the humans, I'm a
spiritual being myself,

I'm sure I can contribute
more than the horse.

To any kind of person,
because they're all here today

and gone tomorrow
anyway, and you might say

that no man is contributing
anything to anything.

He doesn't stay here very long you know,

and then he's headed out somewhere else

where he has no power.

I feel that the men on this planet

would be honest with
themselves, they would see

that they have no power whatsoever.

To get involved in a type
of situation of a time zone,

or a generation of
country, any sort of thing

that would make a man think that he is,

you might say God, the kind
that has absolute authority

is foolin' oneself.

I know mine myself, would
never want to be God,

or even like God,
because God got all these

human beings on this
planet, and I most certainly

wouldn't want to be responsible for them,

or even have the disgrace
that I've made them.

(avant-garde jazz)

I tried to bypass this planet,

because the people here
are not really spiritual,

and I'm a spiritual being,
so I've tried very hard

to bypass it.

I think I'm going to fail,
because I think some people

on this planet are going to wake up

to realize that it's the
unknown that they need to know,

in order to survive.

("We Travel the Spaceways" by Sun Ra)

♪ We travel the spaceways ♪

♪ We travel the spaceways ♪

♪ We travel the spaceways ♪

♪ We travel the spaceways ♪

♪ We travel the spaceways ♪

♪ We travel the spaceways ♪

♪ We travel the spaceways ♪

♪ We travel the spaceways ♪

♪ We travel the spaceways ♪

♪ We travel the spaceways ♪

♪ We travel the spaceways ♪

♪ We travel the spaceways ♪

♪ We travel the spaceways ♪

♪ We travel the spaceways ♪

♪ We travel the spaceways ♪

♪ We travel the spaceways ♪

♪ We travel the spaceways ♪

♪ We travel the spaceways ♪

♪ We travel the spaceways ♪

♪ We travel the spaceways ♪

♪ We travel the spaceways ♪

♪ We travel the spaceways ♪

♪ We travel the spaceways ♪

♪ We travel the spaceways ♪

♪ We travel the spaceways ♪

♪ We travel the spaceways ♪

♪ We travel the spaceways ♪

- A lot of people have tried to contain me

or to limit me, but you see,
that is not my type of being

to be limited, you might
call me a catalyst.

A catalyst changes everything,

but it remains unchanged.

I've been called that, the
Baroness Rothschild says

that I'm a catalyst, so if you
get one person on the planet

that you are something, you've
got something to work with,

so it's two of us say that I'm a catalyst.

I am lookin' for people to
make judgment day a reality,

and to realize that
neither God or anybody else

is going to judge humanity,
they have to do the judging

as to what is proper for them to survive.

Now they can judge whether
I'm really tellin' a lie,

or whether I'm tellin' the truth.

If I'm tellin' a lie,
they have to judge whether

the lie is both profitable to them,

then the truth that they know.

So therefore I'm paving
the way for humanity

to recognize the myth, and
become part of my mythocracy,

instead of that theocracies
and that democracies,

and any other 'ocracies they got.

They can become part of the magic myth,

the magic touch of the mythocracy,

because everything that is unknown is part

of the myth, and I'm
sure that the myth can do

more for humanity than anything

they ever dreamed is possible.

♪ We travel the spaceways ♪

♪ We travel the spaceways ♪

♪ We travel the spaceways ♪

♪ We travel the spaceways ♪

♪ We travel the spaceways ♪

♪ We travel the spaceways ♪

♪ We travel the spaceways ♪

♪ We travel the spaceways ♪

♪ We travel the spaceways ♪

♪ We travel the spaceways ♪

♪ We travel the spaceways ♪

♪ We travel the spaceways ♪

- They say that history repeats itself.

They say that history repeats itself.

They say that history repeats itself.

They say that history repeats itself.

Repeats itself, but history is his story.

It's not my story.

What's your story?