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The Solar Flare Arkestral Marching Band Project is an avant-garde film, LP and exhibition by San Diego based artist Cauleen Smith. Read more

Chicago, IL Documentary
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The Solar Flare Arkestral Marching Band Project is an avant-garde film, LP and exhibition by San Diego based artist Cauleen Smith.

Chicago, IL Documentary
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About this project

The Solar Flare Arkestral Marching Band Project is an avant-garde film, LP and exhibition by San Diego based artist Cauleen Smith.

The Solar Flare Arkestral Marching Band brings together musicians of all ages to arrange and play the music of Sun Ra in spontaneous performances on the streets of Chicago. Performances are conducted as “flashmobs”: the marching band converges onto a location, plays the tune and then quickly leaves the site as peacefully and mysteriously as they appeared. The Solar Flare Arkestral Marching Band brings many Chicago communities together to interrupt ordinary life in the city with fleeting ecstatic moments of visual and aural incongruence.

The first component of this project is a full-length experimental video that explores avant-garde music, African-American culture and spiritual practices that have migrated from the agrarian South to Chicago. It will feature The Solar Flare Arkestral Marching Band, as well as creative individuals from diverse Chicago communities.

The second component of the project, a limited Edition pressing of a 12” vinyl LP, features the audio recordings of the live marching band interspersed with stories about Sun Ra and his role in the city’s cultural history.

The project will culminate in an exhibition at the Chicago visual arts venue, threewalls, in 2012, which will include photographs of each march, as well as the brilliant, shimmering, futuristic Sun Ra-influenced costumes created for each band member.

Why fund The Solar Flare Artkestral Marching Band?
In order to complete production of The Solar Flare Arkestral Marching Band film, we are looking to raise $10,000.00 to go towards publishing rights, composer commissions, band director fees, bus rentals, uniform creation, line producers, cameramen, sound mixers, boom operators, photographers, camera rentals and more.

Thus far, The Solar Flare Arkestral Marching Band has received funding from the University of California at San Diego to start this project, but your contribution will ensure that this series of performances will really happen!

Because of you the grey and gritty streets of Chicago will, for a moment, be awash in sparkling, feathered, brilliantly colored costumes! And, most importantly, great musicians of all ages across Chicago will come together to play Sun Ra’s incredible music as they march their way into the fabric of the city.

Why Chicago?
In 1946, a musician named Herman P. Blount migrated to Chicago from Birmingham, Alabama, but by 1961 this same musician left Chicago as Sun Ra and his Arkestra. Sun Ra’s remarkable period of gestation and self-actualization in Chicago is a model for every creative person who wants to transcend the boundaries of their craft and confines of everyday life.
Deeply rooted and invested in cultural, historical, and spiritual aspects of African-American life, Sun Ra imagined himself as a cosmological being unencumbered by the gravitational pulls of this world. This personal awakening sparked Sun Ra’s fearlessly experimentation with sound, image and performance. Sun Ra’s main purpose as an artist and musician was to communicate joy and inspiration to his audience.
This project is part of a series of films that examine cities in which the music produced by black people has significantly influenced world popular culture: New Orleans, Kansas City, St. Louis, Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, and New York are all critical sites for African-American innovation and influence. The films in each city attempt to learn from and empathize with the social-cultural elements that make each city so special.

Why marching bands?
Marching Bands always make people happy!
The Solar Flare Arkestral Marching Band Project was inspired by the short film, Didn’t We Ramble On: The Black Marching Band (1992). Narrated by Dizzy Gillespie, this film charts the history of marching bands from West African religious ceremonies to the college football fields and New Orleans’ funeral marches. The Solar Flare Arkestral Marching Band evolves out of this same tradition, but also incorporates new techniques and rhythms.

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    4 backers

    $15: note-card featuring a watercolor costume sketch by Cauleen Smith

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    $35: set of three note-cards

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    1 backer

    $65: large print of watercolor costume sketch

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    $100: copy of editioned dvd

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    $150: copy of editioned dvd and mp3 of LP

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    $250: copy of edtioned dvd and large print

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    $500: copy of editioned dvd, lp + large print

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    2 backers

    $1000: copy of editioned dvd, lp, large print + acknowledgment in film

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    $2500: copy of editioned dvd, lp, large print, acknowledgement in film + solar flare arkestral marching band costume

Funding period

- (60 days)