Digging On June 4, Sophie Erskine of 3:AM Magazine interviewed Amiri Baraka about music, politics, the origins of his name, and controversial comments he has made in the past. Baraka is known as the Father of the Black Arts Movement and author of many books and essays on music, including most recently, Digging: The Afro-American Soul of American Classical Music (UC Press, May 2009).

Below is an excerpt of the interview.

3:AM: You said that “poetry is music and nothing
but music”. Can you describe the influence of Sun Ra in particular on the evolution of your poetry-music?

AB: On the cover of my latest book, Digging: The Afro-American Soul of American Classical Music (University of California Press), there is a photograph of the front of the Black Arts Repertory Theater School, with me at the bottom of the steps bringing back some refreshments and at the top of the steps, left, is Sun Ra, who used to come up to Harlem, and hang out with us almost every day. He also played a concert weekly there where he introduced his “space organ” which he had outfitted with lights – dark lights for low sounds, brights for high sounds. This was before Bill Graham hooked up the light show for the rockers in San Francisco.

Sun Ra had great influence on us, not only with his music but his philosophy, but I always thought poetry was heightened and intensified by music, which is the influence of the black church…

To read the interview in its entirety, please visit Art is a Weapon in the Struggle for Ideas: Amiri Baraka.