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Vibrations, Rhythm, and Cosmology

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Afrofuturism and Black Sound Studies

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Abstract

This chapter takes notes on Ralph Ellison’s use of sonic metaphors in Invisible Man as point of departure for a discussion of vibrations. Following Sun Ra, and the Afrofuturist tradition, vibrations are understood as connecting music to the universe, which is shown in two main cases: Sun Ra’s album The Heliocentric World of Sun Ra Vol. II and Flying Lotus’s Cosmogramma. The discussion of Flying Lotus also combines different Afrofuturist elements—from Sun Ra and Alice Coltrane—thus showing the continuous renegotiation of Afrofuturism.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    I do not know why the reference to the ear has disappeared in Weheliye’s quote.

  2. 2.

    From the opening of Space is the Place.

  3. 3.

    Reynaldo Anderson and Charles E. Jones also use the term Astro Black in their edited volume Afrofuturism 2.0: The Rise of Astro-Blackness (Anderson and Jones 2016).

  4. 4.

    Here Attali establishes what is almost an opposition between “legible” and “audible,” and it is tempting to read this opposition in relation to Dery’s reference to the “search for legible traces of its history” in “Black to the Future ” (Dery 1994, 180). Such a search for audible traces of history is what the musicians and composers discussed in this book arguably partake in.

  5. 5.

    There are similarities between this argument and Tate’s discussion of cyclical time as well as the theoretical (and speculative) endeavours of the Black Quantum Futurism collective in Philadelphia (referenced in Chap. 3).

  6. 6.

    Cf., Benjamin on the flâneur in The Paris of the Second Empire in Baudelaire (Benjamin 2003, 3–92, in particular p. 18ff).

  7. 7.

    In a sense these years are the same ones Alondra Nelson discusses in relation to the digital divide (Nelson 2002).

  8. 8.

    It should be added, however, that a collection of That’s Why’s music was released in 2012, and so it is less surprising that Flying Lotus got to hear it than if he’d had to dig up the vinyl from 1970/71.

  9. 9.

    Not that a conductor by necessity should be understood as a mastermind. Some of the recordings of Butch Morris, for example, seem to indicate that the conductor can be a facilitator rather than a “dictator,” as someone contributing to musicians playing and creating together rather than someone keeping the different musicians within the same frame.

  10. 10.

    There is a mistake here, as Ravi Coltrane is Alice Coltrane’s son, not grandson.

Discography

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Steinskog, E. (2018). Vibrations, Rhythm, and Cosmology. In: Afrofuturism and Black Sound Studies. Palgrave Studies in Sound. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-66041-7_4

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-66041-7_4

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  • Publisher Name: Palgrave Macmillan, Cham

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