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Cosmic Tones for Mental Therapy

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In 1971, Sun Ra was an artist-in-residence at the University of California, Berkeley. He gave a seminar called African-American Studies 198, which was also known as “Sun Ra 171,” “The Black Man in the Universe,” or “The Black man in the Cosmos.” In July a recording of one of the lectures from his seminar was published online, along with his reading list for the course (source:
When I came across the lecture and the reading list last summer, I thought it would be a good foundation for a class to discuss Sun Ra and Afrofuturism. I forgot to make a proposal until I was reminded when reading the recently published “In a Qu*A*re Time and Place: Post-Slavery Temporalities, Blaxploitation, and Sun Ra’s Afrofuturism between Intersectionality and Heterogeneity,” written by Tim Stüttgen and published posthumously by b_books in Berlin (link: 
Using the final chapters of Stüttgen’s book, as well as some other writings, this class would discuss Sun Ra, free jazz-futurism and others who adhered to an Afrofuturistic impulse. There is a lot that could be listened to, watched, read and discussed, so I think keeping it somewhat focused on Sun Ra might be a good idea. 
Here is a rough idea for a structure:
Meeting One
- Listen to some Sun Ra records (and maybe some others like Alice Coltrane, Pharaoh Sanders, Art Ensemble of Chicago, etc.)
- Watch *Space is the Place* (link:
- Watch some excerpts from *Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise
* (1980): and *Brother From Another Planet: The Sun Ra Story* (2005)
- Maybe read some of Sun Ra’s poetry:
Meeting Two
- Read and discuss chapters 5, 6, 7 from  “In a Qu*A*re Time and Place: Post-Slavery Temporalities, Blaxploitation, and Sun Ra’s Afrofuturism between Intersectionality and Heterogeneity,” by Tim Stüttgen
- Maybe some excerpts from “Space is the Place: The Lives and Times of Sun Ra” (1998) by John F. Szwed
Meeting Three
- Read and discuss "Further Considerations on Afrofuturism" by Kodwo Eshun (2003):
It would probably be more rational to work backwards through these sessions, but I feel like it would be more satisfying to plunge into the sounds, sights and ideas of Sun Ra first. Also note, that there is a lot of things that aren’t directly addressed by focusing on the above — from contemporary musical currents of Afrofuturism to Black Sci-Fi to other futurist/accelerationist takes on techno/machinic/cybernetic uptopias. We could either sprinkle some other things into the outline above, or develop some new proposals for subsequent classes. Please make suggestions below if you have additions or alternative ideas on how to structure things.
There is also an Afrofuturism collection here:
tps website
Interested (18)
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This is very belated, but thank you for the awesome class! I agree, there are many directions this conversation could continue. In the meantime, I wanted to add a couple of recent brewings from across the pond, related to our discussions.

In February, there was this symposium related to sound and Afrofuturism in NYC. The keynote (for which there is a pdf) discusses Édouard Glissant's concepts of "consent not to be a single being" and Jean-Luc Nancy's ideas of non-singularity. Perhaps some further notes on the tensions between Sun Ra as a despot or a leader of a collective anti-capitalist project... or both? Anyway, symposium is here, and does focus on music as a vehicle and form for these motions of futurism:

Tomorrow is the Question: Afrofuturism and engaging prophetically with history

On February 13, nearly 200 scholars and artists gathered at “Tomorrow is the Question: Afrofuturism, Sound and Spirit”—a symposium at Union Theological Seminary in New York exploring what an “Afro-future” might sound like and mean today.

Also, though the documenation is limited, I wanted to add some links here to Charlotte Brathwaite's work, in relation to the questions of Sun Ra's Afrofuturism and Michael Brown / racist police violence. Her recent play Prophetika is inspired by Sun Ra, Harriet Tubman and Alice Coltrane. More about it can be gleaned from this interview and article. She also produced this play at MIT, The Day the Earth Stood Still, directly responding through science fiction to the movements around Black Lives Matter & police violence.

A quote from the play:

“You the people of Earth have reached the danger point in your development. We can no longer merely watch. That is whey I am here, to bring you my message of warning. Your hunting-killing instincts must be controlled. If not, your next step inevitably will be to travel beyond your own solar system and try to conquer peaceable worlds which have no defense against you . . . I have lived among you. I have eaten of your food. I have walked your streets. I have seen where your poor live and your rich. I have met people who are good and kind. You have many good people among you, you must use them as examples. My friends, your choice is simple. Live in peace. Or pursue your present course—and face obliteration. We will be waiting for your answer. It is up to you. We will be watching . . . and waiting . . .  “

The Day the Earth Stood Still, directed by Charlotte Brathwaite

Ok more in the near futurity...

xx C

TPS's picture
Thanks to everyone who participated in “Cosmic Tones for Mental Therapy.” It was clear by the end that there were a number of different vectors in which we could continue. If you have something in mind, please make a new proposal! 
Also, over the next week is a conference that will be of interest called “Thinking Together – The Politics of Time” at the Berliner Festspiele:\_2/downloads\_30/mm15\_thinking\_together.pdf.  In particular, on Saturday the 28th is the workshop QuAre Temporalities,  “A work group including film screenings, lectures, discussions and interventions evolving around Tim Stüttgen's book 'In a Qu*A*re Time and Place' (b_books 2014).”
Hope to see you all soon.
caleb berlin's picture

Hi all,

This Saturday will be the third and final meeting of “Cosmic Tones for Mental Therapy” starting at 16:00. This week we’ll be reading ”Further Considerations on Afrofuturism" by Kodwo Eshun and some excerpts from “More brilliant than the sun," also by Eshun, and a chapter from Benjamin Noy’s “Malign Velocities: Accelerationism and Capitalism." All relevant links can be found on the class page.

If you didn’t make it last time, but would like to attend this week, please do! Please make sure to add yourself to the class page if you haven't already as some more notes will be published in the next days. See you all soon.


TPS's picture

And please note the time change to 16:00!

TPS's picture

(Sorry for the double post, but noticed a few of you from Berlin aren't also interested in the class.)

Hi All,

Just a quick reminder that for this Saturday’s meeting we’ll be discussing chapters 5, 6, 7 from  “In a Qu*A*re Time and Place: Post-Slavery Temporalities, Blaxploitation, and Sun Ra’s Afrofuturism between Intersectionality and Heterogeneity,” by Tim Stüttgen. This was published by and is available from b_books.

Also, if you have any ideas on what to discuss in addition to (or instead of) the Eshun essay during the third meeting, please come with some suggestions. 

See you all tmr,

caleb berlin's picture

hi all,

We are going to schedule this class to begin on 28 February. Things are still being planned, but we'd like to get it on the calendar. I'll post further updates on the class page as things develop!


(@carpetsnake, hopefully you can join us when you return in March.)


I'll be in Iceland, but while I'm there I'll be working on a project called The Spacesuits, based on a lot of the list you've listed in the curriculum, so I'd love to join in, if not in person, then online.



Sounds challenging and fun. It fits with a project I am developing for a creative/critical piece. I'd like to join in, but may not be able to "attend" frequently in the flesh.

I'll be in Berlin from March, interested if its on then


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