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Space and Time

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Afrofuturism and Black Sound Studies

Part of the book series: Palgrave Studies in Sound ((PASTS))

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Abstract

This chapter discusses Ancient Egypt, Africa, and the Atlantic Ocean as historical and geographical tropes Afrofuturist musicians relate to. The chapter also focuses on how visuals are used in communicating these locales. The key element in the discussion is how musicians give sounds to these distant times and places, and thus engage in a kind of sonic world-building, which is done in the meeting point between visuals, myths/storytelling, and sounds, where the music discussed exists in an intersection of the past, the present, and the future.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    A scholar continuing to investigate the chronopolitical is tobias c. van Veen (cf. van Veen 2015).

  2. 2.

    The similarities between such a perspective and the ones presented by Gayatri Spivak in her A Critique of Postcolonial Reason (1999) are more than superficial.

  3. 3.

    While the term “implanted” sounds more like something out of Blade Runner (1982), it is one of the terms Assmann uses.

  4. 4.

    Similar approaches to time—as African, mythical, and cyclical—are found in the works of Black Quantum Futurism (cf. BQF 1 & 2).

  5. 5.

    Sue-Ellen Case suggests a somewhat different interpretation of Moses, but in the context of discussing Sun Ra, in her Performing Science and the Virtual (Case 2007, 190).

  6. 6.

    Here is also one place where Assmann’s distinction of history’s “two faces” and “overt and covert history” may be of use.

  7. 7.

    Sun Ra did use the gendered term in his title, “The Black Man in the Cosmos”, and is perhaps similar to Elijah Muhammad’s use in Message to the Blackman in America (from 1965).

  8. 8.

    Another example could be Kool and the Gang, although they are a band with arguably less afrofuturist dimensions in their music and performance. That said, Michael Ray, who played with Sun Ra’s Arkestra from 1978 onwards, at the same time played with Kool and the Gang. So from a sonic point of view, it is possible to discuss interactions and similarities. (Cf., Szwed 1998, 340, as well as John Sinclair’s 1994 interview with Ray [Sinclair 2010]).

  9. 9.

    The context of this quote from Eshun is also of interest, not only is he discussing James, he also compares Stolen Legacy with both “realworld sci fi” and Walter Benjamin’s discussion of history, more exactly with Benjamin’s argument that “even the dead will not be safe from the enemy if he is victorious” in the writing of history (Benjamin 2003, 390).

  10. 10.

    In this context it is worth thinking about both the question of music streaming and the Internet, where at least in principle liner notes, images, and the like should be easy to distribute, but even more the fact that the LP did not disappear, but lives on beyond the time span Gilroy seems to be writing about.

  11. 11.

    Other scholars commenting on the relation between Cohran and White are Radano (1993, 83) and Lewis (2008b, 168).

  12. 12.

    Shabazz Palaces is also featured on a track from Flying Lotus’s Ideas+Drafts+Loops (2013), thus taking part in even more connections across the sonic space of Afrofuturism.

  13. 13.

    This is from the album sleeve and is quoted in Williams’s article (Williams 2001, 168).

Discography

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Steinskog, E. (2018). Space and Time. In: Afrofuturism and Black Sound Studies. Palgrave Studies in Sound. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-66041-7_3

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-66041-7_3

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