Harnetty and band weave melancholy threads of music-box celesta, piano, flute, cello and clarinet through warped reels of Ra philosophy and instruction. The end result is peculiarly intimate and beautiful, a drifting dialogue between past and present in the smoke-filled rec room of the orbiting Arkestra space station. 4 stars. 2013 Underground Album of the Year.
— Andrew Male, Mojo Magazine
Harnetty has approached this stuff with the same surety that marked his earlier work... Harnetty was able to approach the archive with ears wide open, looking only for sounds and words that he knew would work. And they do.
— Byron Coley, The Wire

The Star-Faced One is an album-length version of a 2010 sound installation based on the Sun Ra/El Saturn Collection of the Creative Audio Archive in Chicago. It was commissioned with the generous support of the Experimental Sound Studio. The title is borrowed from a poem by Konstantine Balmont (via Igor Stravinsky), which is appropriate for the illusive and enigmatic Sun Ra:

“His eyes were like stars, like flames which furrow space. His visage was like the sun when it shines at its zenith. The luminous colors of the heavens, purple, azure, and gold, dappled the gorgeous robe he wore to be reborn among us....”

On one level, this piece is a way to access a vast collection and explore the many facets, dichotomies, contradictions, and beauty contained within. The collection in itself is already a kind of large-scale composition, a finite world that points to the universe. My contribution is but one of many pieces that can come from it. I cannot lay claim to Sun Ra’s history, nor can I ever fully understand him or his music. But I can listen, intently, and enter a dialogue, bringing my own knowledge and thought and experience. How to enter a dialogue with Sun Ra? Start playing along, always listening with imagination and empathy.... Soon, your own voice emerges, runs along side, converses with, connects, while all along staying independent; they are “co-habitating” together.

In this conversation, there is also the gift economy: finding a way to bring the archives out of the defined world and into the daylight, to hold them, and pass them on. Their energy lies in the exchange, and is how they can stay alive and in motion.

Many thanks to the trustees of the Sun Ra/El Saturn Collection in the Creative Audio Archive at Experimental Sound Studio, who have generously given permission and access to the recordings.



“Brian Harnetty’s The Star-Faced One travels the peculiarities and particularities of a collection of interplanetary fragment-gems: the Sun Ra/El Saturn Collection in the Creative Audio Archive at ESS. His excursion into this unsystematic cache of rehearsal tapes, recitations, studio recordings, concert documents, and unlabeled appropriations, accidentally handed down to us through an unforgiving yet generous history, stakes no claim to Sun Ra’s legacy––something which speaks for itself over and over again––but instead takes a joyful listener’s ‘cosmic pathway’ into its own unique imagistic swirl. Brian and his musical collaborators proceed in a spirit of serious play, respectful intrusion, and insistent openness, releasing hi-, lo-, and mid-fi sounds from the past into a new future of revelatory listening.”
Lou Mallozzi, Experimental Sound Studio, Chicago

Brian Harnetty, Piano, Rhodes Electric Piano, Celesta
Jeremy Woodruff, Saxophone, Flute
Fred Lonberg-Holm, Cello
Jeff Kimmel, Bass Clarinet
Aaron Butler, Vibraphone

Cover artwork and design: Damon Locks
Mastering: Alex Inglizian
Special Thanks to: Lou Mallozzi and John Corbett

This project originated as an Interpretive Commission from the Creative Audio Archive at Experimental Sound Studio, Chicago in 2010.  The original recordings are from the Sun Ra/El Saturn Collection in the CAA; ESS licenses the use of the original recordings and protects their copyright.  For more information and access to CAA online catalogs, please visit


Purchase the score here.

Purchase the score here.


1. 1971: Close Your Eyes (0:52)
2. Marshall (4:02)
3. The Moon (0:56)
4. Cosmic Tones (0:35)
5. Another Way (3:24)

6. Chicago, 1972 (0:08)
7. Dentist (0:48)
8. Rehearsal Side 1 (1:25)
9. “What can I say other than the music itself?” (0:45)
10. Sunset in the East, Sunrise in the West (8:27)

11. May 2, 1973 (0:27)
12. Sow, So, Soul (2:18)
13. “It’s your date, simple as that” (0:45)
14. I Would (1:12)
15. “Trying to get fancy” (4:41)
16. “That’s the friendly galaxy” (0:17)
17. Humming (0:34)
18. “After the sound of the tone” (2:03)

19. 1974: Not Ordinary Things (0:27)
20. Mbira (1:04)
21. That Dare to Hear (3:32)
22. “And as it is written” (2:08)




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