Strange Strings

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Strange Strings
Studio album by
Sun Ra and his Astro Infinity Arkestra
Recorded1966, New York[1]
ProducerAlton Abraham
Sun Ra and his Astro Infinity Arkestra chronology
Nothing Is
Strange Strings
Monorails and Satellites
Professional ratings
Review scores
Allmusic3/5 stars[2]
All About Jazz(?)[3]

Strange Strings is an album by the American Jazz musician Sun Ra and his Astro Infinity Arkestra. Recorded in 1966, the album was released by 1967[1] on Sun Ra's own Saturn label. The record was reissued on compact disc by Atavistic in 2007.

'Strange Strings is a somewhat legendary album from the mid-'60s. "Worlds Approaching" is a great tune, anchored by a bass ostinato and timpani and featuring several fantastic solos... Off and on throughout the tune, Bugs Hunter applies near-lethal doses of reverb, giving the piece a very odd but interesting sound. "Strange Strings" is one of those songs that is likely to inspire some sort of "you call that music?" comment from your grandmother, or even from open-minded friends. It sounds like they raided the local pawnshop for anything with strings on it, then passed them out to the bandmembers. It's difficult to tell if some of these instruments have been prepared in some way, or if they're simply being played by untutored hands. There are also lots of drums and some viola playing from Ronnie Boykins that is also treated heavily with reverb. Despite the cacophony, there is a definite ebb and flow to the piece and what seem like different movements or themes. Whatever you think of the music contained, there's no denying that it produced some of the most remarkable sounds of the mid-'60s. If you don't like "out," stay clear of this one.' Sean Westergaard[4]

A study in ignorance[edit]

After finishing a series of concerts of New York State colleges sponsored by ESP, Sun Ra decided to assemble a number of stringed instruments bought from curio shops and music stores. Ukuleles, Mandolins, Kotos, Koras, Chinese Lutes and 'Moon Guitars' were handed out to his reed and horn players in the belief that 'strings could touch people in a special way, different from other instruments.'[5] The point was that the Arkestra didn't know how to play them - Sun Ra called it 'a study in ignorance.'[5]

'Next they prepared a number of homemade instruments, including a large piece of tempered sheet metal with an "X" chiseled on it. Then they miked the Sun Columns.

'Marshall Allen said that when they began to record the musicians asked Sun Ra what they should play, and he answered only that he would point to them when he wanted them to start. The result is an astonishing achievement, a musical event which seems independent of all other musical traditions and histories.... The piece is all texture, with no sense of tonality except where Art Jenkins sings through a metal megaphone with a tunnel voice. But to say that the instruments seem out of tune misses the point, since there is no "tune", and in any case the Arkestra did not know how to tune most of the instruments...' John F Szwed[5]

Track listing[edit]

12" Vinyl[edit]

All songs by Sun Ra
Side A:

  1. "Worlds Approaching"
  2. "Strings Strange"

Side B:

  1. "Strange Strings"

CD extra track[edit]

  1. "Door Squeak"


  • Sun Ra - electric piano, lightning drum, timpani, squeaky door, strings
  • Marshall Allen - oboe, alto saxophone, strings
  • John Gilmore - tenor saxophone, strings
  • Danny Davis - flute, alto saxophone, strings
  • Pat Patrick - flute, baritone saxophone, strings
  • Robert Cummings - bass clarinet, strings
  • Ali Hassan - trombone, strings
  • Ronnie Boykins: bass viol
  • Clifford Jarvis - timpani, percussion
  • James Jacson - log drums, strings
  • Carl Nimrod - strings
  • Art Jenkins - space voice, strings

Recorded New York, 1966[1] except Door Squeak, 1967.

“I’m painting pictures of things I know about, and things I’ve felt, that the world just hasn’t had the chance to feel... I’m painting pictures of another plane of existence, you might say, of something that’s so far away that it seems to be nonexistent. I’m painting pictures of that, but it is a world of happiness which people have been looking for or say they wanted, but they haven’t been able to achieve it.” Sun Ra, interviewed by Henry Dumas in 1966[7]


  1. ^ a b c d Sun Ra's Discography, R Campbell
  2. ^ Allmusic review
  3. ^ All About Jazz review
  4. ^ All Music Guide
  5. ^ a b c Szwed, Space Is The Place, Mojo 2000, p238
  6. ^ From the Atavistic Sleeve notes
  7. ^ Quoted on Atavistic Website