Marshall Allen on Sun Ra

Marshall Allen: “Sun Ra said, you can’t learn without discipline and precision”

Marshall Allen (Photo: Frederike Wetzels)


Marshall Allen: “He’s always there when we’re playing his music. We’re representing his name. I’m trying to preserve the music of the great artist Sun Ra, who with patience wrote music and did creative stuff. We’re playing his music and we’re playing it with different interpretations. So, my account is to work as long as I can.

I’m not Sun Ra, I can do his things, but I play music like the vibrations of the day, which changes a little bit from yesterday. So my thing is what I do. Yesterday we played it one way, today we play it slightly different. We can play it like Sun Ra more or less in one way, and then as the creative spirit. I change musicians a lot. Some have played with us before. Right now I got two, three people new in the band, and that changes things again.

Sun Ra said you can’t learn without discipline and precision. He had a program for all of us to have more discipline for the things he was doing for the future.
The Arkestra is part of the heritage of jazz. What we do is jazz, that has always been here. And we all have a book full of tunes that we honour—those who came before us, who gave us so much music and stuff. But we honour all music, there’s no music that we don’t play. We have a vast amount of music to play.

This creative music creates the vibrations of the day. I had to find out playing music for my well-being first. You play music for your well-being, then you can give some to others. So if it wasn’t doing me any good, I wouldn’t give it to you. I wouldn’t play it to the public, I just wouldn’t play.

Music is a language, there’s all kinds of vibrations from music that you have to know. When I say I play music for my well-being and it makes me well, then I’m following the code of the music. The music will heal you, music makes you happy, music makes you cry, music does all these things. There’s no limitation to the music—you’ve just got to find whatever it is you want to do with it. You’ve got this constant “stay at it” to find the things that you do and things that you don’t do. And then you already know a bunch of things, and you have to have the spirit to get the unknown, the things that you don’t know.

I don’t think about being 98, I’m just me. I’m not as wild as I used to be because you grow up, naturally. Because you’ve done so many things before that you don’t have to do all those things. Whatever you think of doing, you have your instrument do it. It’s the instrument—you have to put it in to get it out. If you put the time in, you can get it out. You make the instrument do many things that you never thought you could do. If anything, I want to hear a sound you can’t do with the instrument. That’s the way you discover things, it’s constant discovering. So you’ll be yourself in it, in the spirit of it. It guides you to do a lot of things.”

Marshall Allen was interviewed, edited and put into narrative form by Olaf Karnik for the Week-End-Books publication “I feel everything you say, I feel everything you hear.”
(published by StrzeleckiBooks. ISBN: 978-3-946770-00-8)

Mit Texten und Fotos von: Stephen Malkmus, Adrian Sherwood, Scientist, Suzanne Ciani, Flohio, Shintaro Sakamoto, Gilberto Gil, Arthur Verocai, Stephen Pastel, Pascal Comelade, Sun Ra Arkestra‘s Marshall Allen, Fred Frith, Eiko Ishibashi, Jan St. Werner, Tim Bernardes, Sessa, Roedelius, Mdou Moctar, Anadol, Pak Yan Lau, Claire RousayAutor*innen: Olaf Karnik, Hanna Bächer, Thiago Piccoli, Ryan Weinstein, Friedhelm TeickeFotograf*innen: Christian Faustus, Frederike Wetzels, Niclas Weber, Jason Quigley, Biel Basile, Laurent Orseau, M. Harper Scott

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