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Monday, October 10, 2011

This Week in BAM History: Between Sun Ra and Philip Glass

Ad from the Village Voice, October 1969
As the 1960s drew to a close, the varying tastes of the psychedelic hippie and civil rights crusader dovetailed across two nights at BAM. On October 10th, 1969, jazz prophet of the outer limits Sun Ra, and the always explosive if precise poet and dramatist LeRoi Jones (who would soon discard his imposed moniker and become Amiri Baraka) graced the opera house stage at BAM. As if this weren’t enough to glut even the most insatiable cultural epicure, the following night brought an even greater bounty as The Band (known then as the backing band behind Bob Dylan’s breakthrough into electric rock) and the legendary Beat poet Allen Ginsberg took the stage. These two nights in Brooklyn stand as a convergence of some of America’s most radical minds, in what was surely one of the last great near-trysts of a tumultuous era.

Ad from the Village Voice, October 1969

A mere 14 years later, in October 1983, the cultural landscape had changed considerably. The hippies had faded, punk and the beautifully meandering cinema of the 70s had both come and gone—even the gritty East Village scene was giving way to a slick professionalism, emblematic in Jean Michel Basquiat’s rise from street artist to international art star. A new era was just beginning as BAM’s first annual Next Wave Festival was inaugurated 28 years ago this week with performances of The Photographer, the multimedia stage piece directed by JoAnne Akalaitis of Mabou Mines, with music by Philip Glass.

The Photographer. Photo: Johann Elbers.

Based on the life and work of 19th century photographer Eadweard Muybridge, The Photographer toyed with the tensions between Victorian era mores and photography’s radical objectivity. While the beginning of Next Wave marked a new phase for BAM, one that still continues to this day, the fundamental principles are the same as those put forward in 1969: to bring on stage the best minds of all generations, as Allen Ginsberg might say.


  1. The Band/Allen Ginsberg followed by a screening of Don't Look Back and Yellow Submarine? Radical, indeed.

  2. Sun Ra's musical career is difficult to make generalizations. He led bands for almost 60 years. He did something LP 125. He did it all in 1930 the hotel syrup band, and synthesizer pieces that twitter and clunked bored as Pac-Man machine. This page follows the sun during the first half of his career

  3. 10 minutes from either village!? Interesting to see that Craigslist's most prevalent mistruth is over 40 years old.


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