We’re excited to kick off our fifth Ploughshares Solos Series with “Face The Music: My Improbable Trip to Saturn (or Close Enough) with Sun Ra” by Michael Lowenthal. In 1990, the avant-garde jazz musician Sun Ra arrived at Dartmouth to collaborate with the school’s jazz band, where Michael Lowenthal–an anxious, twenty-year-old senior–played trumpet. As rehearsals got underway and two musical worlds collided, Lowenthal struggled with the improvisation that Sun Ra’s sparse, yet spiritual, melodies demanded. In this essay, Lowenthal recounts his “otherworldly” experience with the famous jazz star who claimed to be from Saturn.
Read “Face The Music” today for $1.99.
Here’s an excerpt from the Solo:
Sun Ra claimed to hail from Saturn, but he and his Intergalactic Arkestra still had to suffer the trials of earthly travel. When his agent phoned us to say they’d be driving up early, a day before their hotel was expecting them, we had to scramble to find beds.
Adam, our piano player, lived in Panarchy, a frat that had bucked its Greek identity and become a refuge for students too queer, in a range of senses, to fit in at tight-assed Dartmouth. He asked his pals if they’d host one of the world’s most offbeat jazz bands, and the Panarchists, always game, agreed. Mattresses and questionably clean bedding were dredged up, dusty couches cleared of detritus. Adam’s girlfriend, Angela, commandeered the kitchen, churning out hundreds of dumplings for dinner.
About Michael Lowenthal
Michael Lowenthal is the author of four novels: The Same Embrace, Avoidance, Charity Girl, and The Paternity Test. His short stories have appeared in Tin House, the Southern Review, and the Kenyon Review, and his nonfiction in the New York Times Magazine, Boston Magazine, the Washington Post, Out, and many other publications. The recipient of fellowships from the Bread Loaf and Wesleyan writers’ conferences, the MacDowell Colony, and the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Lowenthal has taught creative writing at Boston College and Hampshire College, and as the Picador Guest Professor for Literature at Leipzig University. Since 2003 he has been a core faculty member in the low-residency MFA program at Lesley University.
About Ploughshares Solos
Ploughshares Solos are stories and essays too long for our traditional print journal that we publish in an affordable, digital format nine times a year. For more information and some great reading material, check out our previously published Solos, or the Ploughshares Solos Omnibus Volume 3.
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