Wonder Inn, 1960
Wonder Inn, 1960
Sun Ra and the Arkestra appeared semiregularly at the Wonder Inn between summer 1960 and early 1961—among the group’s last extended engagements before leaving Chicago. This chapter examines one of the ensemble’s interactive performances at the Wonder Inn as well as the club’s place more generally in the South Side music culture of the era, arguing that the Arkestra encouraged audiences and other musicians to entertain and contemplate, in a collective setting, entirely new possibilities—and to imagine an African American South Side that remained at the center of a different urban future. The chapter further explores the role of place within a collapsing South Side nightlife economy, suggesting that Sun Ra’s growing reliance on informal or “found” locations for rehearsals—while born of economic necessity—demonstrated that otherworldly music might emerge from practically any place. Situating the Arkestra’s final year in Chicago within a larger transformation of space and place in the postwar American metropolis, this chapter proposes that the group presented utopia itself not as a singular, fixed territory or location but as a spatial array of possibly configured places.
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