// AfroFuturism Sonic Collage
I would like to propose a project where I use film soundtracks / parts of film dialogue, electronic / spacey jazz music and excerpts from articles under the umbrella topic of Sonic Futurism to create a sound collage. I want to frame this work in the context of a broadcast that is more confusing than informing, multi-layered. I am imagining the length to be around 50 minutes for this work. The final product would be uploaded to my tumblr, http://zoots.tumblr.com/, for download and hosted on my personal soundcloud page, https://soundcloud.com/mariozoots. I am thinking that I will not include full tracks on this collage but rather 1 to 2 minute excerpts of the tracks selected and at points marrying dialogue and sound to create new layers of content. I am imagining 20 minutes of soundtrack music, 20 minutes of electronic /jazz music that I find on my own and 10 minutes of readings /article excerpts from some outside sources that I will find on my own.
During my research for sonic science fiction I have come across the topic of AfroFuturism. AfroFuturism is defined as an emergent literary and cultural aesthetic that combines elements of science fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, Afrocentricity, and magic realism with non-Western cosmologies in order to critique not only the present-day dilemmas of people of color, but also to revise, interrogate, and re-examine the historical events of the past. -wikipedia. African-American critic Greg Tate: “Black people, live the estrangement that science-fiction writers imagine.” AfroFuturist’s include Sun-Ra, George Clinton and Herbie Hancock. Films such as Sun-Ra’s: Space Is The Place (1974) are very intriguing to me, borrowing cues from Maya Deren and Surrealism. I see this topic of Afro Futurism as worth the time to explore and to see how minorities relate to Science Fiction.
There are also sounds made by Scratch Lee Perry who talks about space and the unknown in his dub tracks, where there is loads of delay and reverb creating a super out of this world feeling. Erik Davis asserts that “what is most important about Perry and his astounding musical legacy is how they highlight an often ignored strain of New World African culture: a techno-visionary tradition that looks as much toward science-fiction futurism as toward
magical African roots.” Writes Davis, “This loosely gnostic strain of Afro-diasporic science fiction emerges from the improvised confrontation between modern technology and the
prophetic imagination, a confrontation rooted in the alienated conditions of black life in the New World.” He quotes the African-American critic Greg Tate: “Black people,” says Tate, “live the estrangement that science-fiction writers imagine.”
The sources I have chosen are books by African American science fiction authors, which there are very few from what I can see in the early researching of this project. Also included in my research are films that explore people of color and involved in science fiction, like the 1984 film, Brother From Another Planet. In this film The Brother has telekinetic powers but, unable to speak, he struggles to express himself and adjust to his new surroundings, including a stint in the Job Corps at a video arcade in Manhattan.
Sources for Research:
Invisible Man, 1952, Ralph Ellison
Invisible Man is a 1952 novel written by Ralph Ellison. It addresses many of the social and intellectual issues facing African-Americans early in the twentieth century, including black nationalism..
Nova, 1968, Samuel R. Delany
Nova is a science fiction novel by Samuel R. Delany. Nominally space opera, it explores the politics and culture of a future where cyborg technology is universal, yet major decisions can involve using tarot cards.
Space Is The Place (film), 1974, Sun-Ra
Space Is the Place is an 82-minute science fiction film made in 1972 and released in 1974. It was directed by John Coney, written by Sun Ra and Joshua Smith, and features Sun Ra and his Arkestra. A soundtrack was released on Evidence Records.
Parliament: Mothership Connection (album),1975
Patternmaster, 1976, Octavia E. Butler
Liquid Sky (film), 1982, Slava Tsukerman
Born In Flames (film), 1983, Lizzie Borden
Born in Flames is a 1983 documentary-style feminist science fiction film by Lizzie Borden that explores racism, classism, sexism and heterosexism in an alternative United States socialist democracy.
The Brother From Another Planet (film), 1984, John Sayles
The Brother from Another Planet is a science fiction film written, directed and edited by John Sayles. It stars Joe Morton as an extraterrestrial who has escaped to Earth and who hides in Harlem.
Alien Nation (film), 1988, Graham Baker
Black To The Future (article), 1995, Mark Dery
The Last Angel Of History (film), 1995, John Akomfrah,
The Last Angel of History is a 45 minute 1996 documentary that deals with concepts of Afrofuturism as a metaphor for the displacement of black culture and roots. The film a hybrid documentary and fictional narrative.
Afrofuturism: A Special Issue of Social Text, 2002, Alondra Nelson
By the end of the quarter I would like to have a clear understanding of how people of color and science fiction relate in a sonic landscape. AfroFuturism allows me to conduct this research. When I was a young boy growing up in urban Denver I was exposed at an early age to Funk and Hip-Hop that was inspired by technology and computers. My mothers friends were DJ’s and breakdancers, the albums my mother left stored in the garage ranged from James Brown to GrandMaster Flash to Parliament. I used to listen to these records regularly on an old turntable that my grandmother had.
Around the same time an uncle of mine showed me Blade Runner and Escape From New York. I related to these types of science fiction more so than the Star Wars and Star Treks because they took place in an urban post apocalyptic environment similar to where I was growing up in the late 1980’s in Denver. Downtown Denver was dangerous and desolate, this was before all the gentrification, the street people reminded me of these movies as a child. One particular album stands out for me from when I was about ten years old, its an album titled Mothership Connection by Parliament. On the cover there is an image of a man coming out a UFO looking spaceship floating in space, I was also so into these album covers that involved space and music, and still am. I think these albums with scenes of science fiction and the urban environment really touched and transformed the way African American and Latino’s related themselves to science fiction. I think it finally provided a voice for these inner city dwellers who were aliens to the normal white society.
So far everything we have watched in class and have read about has been mostly related to white men and people of privilege, which is understandable being that racism from the 50’s to the 70’s was still a major issue in America. I still think that today, racism is not gone and it is still very prominent in certain aspects of society. I am interested in the conversation that involves people of color and science fiction, through the 70’s and 80’s.