SUN RA: A JOYFUL NOISE (1980) + shorts on 16mm with filmmaker Robert Mugge: Block Museum - Northwestern University
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SUN RA: A JOYFUL NOISE (1980) + shorts on 16mm with filmmaker Robert Mugge

Wearing a yellow and purple tunic and with arms out-streched, Sun Ra is encircled by a group of musicians, against a bright blue backdrop decorated with celestial drawings.
7 PM

Event Details

Date & Time:

Thu June 1, 2023
7 PM


The Block Museum of Art
40 Arts Circle Drive
Evanston, IL 60208


Open to the public


SUN RA: A JOYFUL NOISE (1980) and Sun Ra Shorts on 16mm with filmmaker Robert Mugge

(Various artists, 1966-1980, 16mm, 90 min)


“The music is the image is the music is the image/The sound image.” Written in 1972, these words from Sun Ra’s poem “The Sound Image” convey the jazz legend’s visionary spirit, which reached beyond music to art, poetry, and cinema for creative expression. They also provide the title for the Block’s current exhibition, The Living Image of Sound: Notes on Jazz and Protest at Northwestern, curated by Ashleigh Deosaran (Ph.D. candidate in Art History at Northwestern), which charts a constellation of musical, social, and political activity in and beyond the heliocentric worlds of Sun Ra.

In conjunction with this exhibition, Block Cinema presents a rare 16mm screening of Robert Mugge’s SUN RA: A JOYFUL NOISE (1980), a vivid and exuberant cinematic document of Sun Ra’s music, philosophy, and community. Mugge’s mobile 16mm camera captures electrifying performances in Baltimore, Washington D.C., and on the rooftop of the International House in the Arkestra’s home city of Philadelphia, as well as intimate conversations with the Arkestra and its leader. Reflecting the scope of Sun Ra’s substantial cinematic legacy, SUN RA: A JOYFUL NOISE will be shown alongside two lesser-known entries in the Sun Ra filmography: SPACEWAYS (Edward English, 1968, 16mm, 18 min), produced by underground record label ESP-Disk, which captures the Arkestra’s rehearsals for a Carnegie Hall concert against a backdrop of civil unrest; and Maxine Haleff’s THE FORBIDDEN PLAYGROUND (Maxine Haleff, 1966, 16mm, 10 min), a dance film set to Sun Ra’s music, which was projected at the same Carnegie Hall engagement.

Following the films, SUN RA: A JOYFUL NOISE director Robert Mugge will appear for discussion. Over the course of a career that has spanned five decades, Robert Mugge has earned a place as one of cinema’s foremost chroniclers of music on film, crafting dozens of documentaries on American blues, jazz, gospel, and soul, and beyond. His recently-published memoir, NOTES FROM THE ROAD: A FILMMAKER’S JOURNEY THROUGH AMERICAN MUSIC, was recently spotlighted by Kirkus Reviews as “a vibrant, entertaining panorama of music-making and the picaresque struggle to capture it on film.”

Note: SPACEWAYS will be shown in a vintage 16mm print which has faded to magenta.

Presented with support from the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities at Northwestern University.

Contact The Block Museum of Art for more information: (847) 491-4000 or email us at