In 2009 Kindred Spirits, an independent record label in Amsterdam, contacted me about working on a series of ten inch re-issues by Sun Ra, the pianist, composer, and bandleader who claimed to come from the planet Saturn and who died in Philadelphia in May of 1993.
It was not only my perception of music that was expanding. Sun Ra’s music was to completely transform my sense of what was possible in graphic design. Among other records from his personal collection, Carlos Niño introduced me to a set of El Saturn original releases. Each record was enclosed inside an amazing hand-drawn and hand-colored sleeve. They seemed to consciously defy the mass-produced 4-color process packaging of most musical product known to my generation. Here was a breathtaking display of unique art works, clearly composed and executed by human hand. My Brother the Wind, for example, features a bugged-out block print illustration of Ra on the keys, engulfed in a crudely painted cyclone of blue-metallic-silver and yellow flashes. For Cosmo Sun Connection, a dramatic montage of Ra and the Arkestra, mimeographed in black ink on yellow paper, had been pasted to the front of a generic white sleeve. For Space Probe the o-label becomes the vessel for the artwork: hand-lettered title and song names scrawled in urgent blue ball-point pen and felt tip marker. I had seen nothing like it.
This project is an attempt to connect and map out all the points in this fantastic Heliocentric musical constellation.
—Stephen Serrato, 12 June 2010
Moving Forward with Ra
Text and design: Stephen Serrato