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More Brilliant than the Sun: Adventures in Sonic Fiction

The classic work on the music of Afrofuturism, from jazz to jungle
More Brilliant than the Sun: Adventures in Sonic Fiction is one of the most extraordinary books on music ever written. Part manifesto for a militant posthumanism, part journey through the unacknowledged traditions of diasporic science fiction, this book finds the future shock in Afrofuturist sounds from jazz, dub and techno to funk, hip hop and jungle. By exploring the music of such musical luminaries as Sun Ra, Alice Coltrane, Lee Perry, Dr Octagon, Parliament and Underground Resistance, theorist and artist Kodwo Eshun mobilises their concepts in order to open the possibilities of sonic fiction: the hitherto unexplored intersections between science fiction and organised sound. Situated between electronic music history, media theory, science fiction and Afrodiasporic studies, More Brilliant than the Sun is one of the key works to stake a claim for the generative possibilities of Afrofuturism. Much referenced since its original publication in 1998, but long unavailable, this new edition includes an introduction by Kodwo Eshun as well as texts by filmmaker John Akomfrah and producer Steve Goodman aka kode9.

Reviews

  • “Armed with a central thesis that is brilliant in its simplicity, that turns conventional ways of thinking on its head and joins the dots between different fields of creative endeavour with devastating elegance and wit.”
  • “Eshun’s writing is like hearing Public Enemy after a lifetime of listening to Elvis Presley.”
  • “A groundbreaking, mind-stretching, annoying, arrogant and rather brilliant book which forces the reader to use their brain.”
  • “Fantastically sacrilegious, written in mesmerisingly forbidding prose and heaving with maniacal fervour.”
  • “The most sustained and penetrating analysis to date of what the author calls ‘sonic fiction’: the otherworldly vistas and alien mindscapes conjured by genres like dub reggae, hip hop, techno, and jungle.”

Blog

  • Paul Gilroy: Race and "Useful Violence"

    This piece first appeared at Public Seminar.

    Aimé Césaire called it: the so-called west is a decaying civilization. In both the United States and Europe, where institutions are receding, a base level of race-talk and racial solidarity is revealed as metastasizing beneath them. In such dim times, I turn to the writings of Paul Gilroy as offering an anti-racist vision that is transnational and cosmopolitan, but which draws on popular and vernacular forms of hybridity rather than elite ones.

    In Darker than Blue: On the Moral Economies of Black Atlantic Culture (Harvard), Gilroy offers a series of essays on the culture of what he has famously called the Black Atlantic as an alternative to race-talk but which is also outside of the various alternative nationalisms that flourish as a response. It is not reducible to liberalism, and it also attempts to fend off incorporation into the culture industry. That might be an urgent project for this “age of rendition.” (87) One in which in Judith Butler’s terms that which is grievable, or in Donna Haraway’s that which is killable, are respectively diminishing and expanding categories.

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