Like a Universe by radio artist, Gregory Whitehead, celebrates the memory of jazz composer, band leader and cosmic philosopher, Sun Ra, 100 years after he was born.
Gregory says, in explaining what drew him to create this memorial piece:
“I went to college outside of Philadelphia, home base for Sun Ra and his Arkestra during those years. His concerts had an instant deep impact on me, during a time when I was becoming increasingly engaged with jazz and improvisation: the raucous waves of sound; the pure kinetic force and charisma of Sun Ra himself; and the irrepressible joy radiating from the spectacle, as the musicians would circulate at times through the space, completely immersing the audience in the music. We were on a journey somewhere else, somewhere out of this world.
Sun Ra’s philosophy borrowed from many sources, like his music, yet underlying it all was a profound understanding of those soft-burning cosmic vibrations that riddle the universe, if we are open to them. For this memorial piece, I created a compressed version of a more lengthy interview with Sun Ra, and then voiced that text into a simple song, more or less chanted, with very little embellishment. That first voicing then mutates and transforms across seven generations, adding choruses and layers of text and sound. The sources are kept to a minimum: excerpts from the interview, my own voice, and a loop of random ethereal noise, possibly emanating from Saturn.
Like a universe — and then it’s gone.”
Award-winning radio artist Gregory Whitehead has created more than one hundred radio plays, essays and acoustic adventures for broadcasters world-wide, including his pioneering study of the Australian Screamscape, way back in 1992. In his text-sound compositions, Whitehead uses his own voice together with fragmentary samples of found tapes and vinyl records to explore how entropy and decay reveal fresh creative possibilities.