Sun Ra – A Joyful Noise (Documentary)


Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise is a 1980 jazz film by Robert Mugge documenting performances by Sun Ra and his Arkestra in PhiladelphiaWashington D.C., and Baltimore, and also including interviews and rehearsal footage. The Philadelphia performances captured by the film took place at Danny’s Hollywood Palace and on the rooftop of the Philadelphia International Center. The Baltimore performance took place in the Famous Ballroom, hosted by the Left Bank Jazz Society.

Sun Ra compositions featured in the film include “Astro Black,” “Along Came Ra,” “We Travel the Spaceways,” and “Requiem for Trevor Johnson (Discipline 27).”

In 2001, the film was screened as part of Maryland Film Festival in the former Famous Ballroom, now part of the expanded Charles Theatre, where the film’s Baltimore performances were shot.

Sun Ra lived as a true jazz renegade at a time when Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk flourished. He was idiosyncratic both in personality and his eclectic music. He was forthright in his enigmatic self-estimation as an alien from the planet Saturn who came to earth on a mission to preach peace. Renowned documentary film director Robert Mugge decided to spend three years peering into the life of the colorful Sun Ra and his rowdy band mates. One reviewer wrote of the underappreciated and relatively unknown 1980 film, Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise, that it was not only “a performance film, but also as a record of the famous composer, keyboardist, bandleader’s purposely odd personal and professional life.” Mugge captures the dramatic Sun Ra in conversation as he expounds on his Afrofuturistic mythology and his adventures with his big band Intergalactic Omniverse Arkestra. He also notes that “mystery is my story.” The ecstatic multi-horn, multi-percussion band is captured during rehearsals and in concert at two clubs (at Philadelphia’s Danny’s Hollywood Palace and in Baltimore at the Famous Ballroom). Tunes included “Astro Black,” “Along Came Ra,” “We Travel the Spaceways” and “Requiem for Trevor Johnson (Discipline 27).”