Space is the Place on Earth
by Chad Beattie
A strange occurrence left a mark on the world today, literally as well as figuratively. On August 7th, 6015 at 2:29 A.M. Baltimore resident claims that a meteor-sized steel ball struck his lawn. He was sitting on his back porch smoking marijuana from a plastic bong when suddenly a bright light swept through the air less then ten feet from him.
Allen Marshall, 56, describes the occurrence as being “totally out of sight and far out.” He continues, “I heard this loud shriek pierce through the air like a gun went off, and you know, living in Baltimore you're used to the sound of a gun going off, so I didn't think anything of it. Then I heard this loud thud, but I just assumed a body fell to the ground which is normally what happens after a gun is shot.”
When Marshall went to “check out the scene” he found that the sound he heard was not the sound of a gun, but that of freeform jazz.
“It was wild, man. You hear all this smooth shit on the radio - you know, Kenny G, Boney James, Sting – that shit puts you to sleep, and you only listen to it cause it's on, not cause you like it. . But this shit, this free jazz shit, it's from another planet.”
Marshall's statement is entirely accurate. The meteor-sized steel ball that fell from the sky came from the planet Saturn, the sixth planet from the sun located over 800 million miles from earth.
“The thing was sewn shut,” claims Marshall. “I had to melt the motherfucker with a torch gun to get it open.”
Marshall had not reported the incident immediately due to the fact that he was under the influence of the mind-opening and soul-stirring substance marijuana.
“For an hour I thought it was just really good weed,” he chuckles to himself. “But naw, man, it was just normal weed.”
When Marshall opened the object resembling a meteor, he couldn't believe what he saw. Inside the steel ball was the entire discography of Saturn-based composer, pianist, philosopher, and poet Sun Ra.
“It was a bunch of vinyl,” says Marshall. “You know, like they used in before-time, before humanity had been wiped out and restored, in the days when white people owned slaves and gay marriage was illegal and lawyers made more money than nurses.”
Marshall, one of the few still-standing owners of a turn table, plopped one of the records on the mat and dropped the needle.
“It started out with this spaced-out piano hitting a note with no real rhyme or rhythm, then the horns cut in with a disjointed melody. That zoned me out. I mean, these horn players could fucking play. A couple measures later the drums gave a beat to the chaos, and suddenly the vocals hit and gave the music a home. . 'Space is the place,' they repeated over and over, in creative vocal patterns and complex note synchronization.”
Space is the Place, the 1973 album by Sun Ra and His Astro Intergalactic Infinity Arkestra, was the first record Marshall dived into. The next was The Night of the Purple Moon, a 1970 release that Marshall described as “the most out-there shit you'll ever hear and highly underrated even amongst diehard Sun Ra fans.”
Sun Ra, who hit the scene in the mid 1950's, has recorded over one hundred albums, making him more prolific than Zappa, Prince, and Jandek. His legacy lives on not only through his music, but through his ideas and intellectual philosophy toward life.
Marshall developed a connection with Sun Ra's life and music. He first began flipping through the bins at Normal's Records & Books, a hip little spot off of Greenmount known for selling far-out psychedelic rock and jazz music. Marshall even went as far as purchasing some live bootlegs on Amazong.com, a capitalist-driven website known to cheat out small businesses, independent labels, and starving artists.
“People had to hear this music,” says Marshall. “I had to let the world know what it was missing out on.”
Sadly, Sun Ra fans are limited these days. Prestigious colleges waste their money on paying professors to teach petty courses on math and science instead of classes focusing on freeform jazz. Even as early as grade school, public and private education systems have strayed young minds from concepts such as individuality and internal freedom.
“Our society now,” says Marshall, “is fucked. People are dumb. They spend their time and energy on useless things. From video games to social media to television to money. All that that shit is evil. All that shit is a waste of time.”
Marshall offers us a hit of grass and smiles. He drops another record on the mat. The crackling chaos of Sun Ra blares through the room. Marshall closes his eyes and bobs his head up and down to the beat that didn't exist.
“This music's from another plant, man,” says Marshall, taking a hit from his joint. “It's really far out.”
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