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From the Innovative Music and Arts Desk by
© Amir Bey, 2009
JULY 21, 2009

This is an astrological view of The Art Ensemble of Chicago. The Art Ensemble was a revolutionary force in the new music, of avant garde Jazz, and one of the most reknowned bands of the AACM -Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. The AEC’s roots in African and African American musical traditions were expressed in two phrases that they created: “Great Black Music” and “From the Ancient to the Future”.

I couldn't get firm dates and times to provide for an inception chart or progressed charts. So we’ll look at the natal charts of the ensemble members and two Composite charts. These charts cover the time span from the late 1960s When the AEC was a quartet, then the addition of drummer Famoudou Don Moye in early 1970, through the late 1990s, when alto saxophonist Joseph left for a period of time. All the times for the natal charts were either given to me by the individuals themselves or by Famoudou Don Moye, who studied astrology under Mr. Black, a Chicago astrologer, and who has collected birth data of AACM members over the years.


From left: Malachi Favors, Joseph Jarman, Famoudou Don Moye, Roscoe Mitchell Lester Bowie

The Art Ensemble of Chicago with Fontella Bass
Here's a video of The Art Ensemble of Chicago.


reeds, percussion

Life Cast, bronze, with ceramic back, Amir Bey, 1989

Let’s examine the pertinent points in the members’ charts as they relate to the ensemble. I’d like to begin with the AEC’s cofounder, Roscoe Mitchell, because the composite charts reflect his chart in ways that can be called astrogenetics. The origins of the Ensemble starts with Roscoe, who formed the Roscoe Mitchell Art Ensemble in the mid 1960s.

His concentrations of planets in Leo, Taurus, and his Venus in Cancer figure strongly.
Roscoe, born 8/3/1940 in Chicago, IL at 7:05 AM has two predominating stelliums (three or more planets in a sign or house) in fixed signs, Leo, including his Sun, Moon, Ascendant, Pluto, and Mars, and in Taurus, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and the Midheaven. His planetary pattern is a Bundle, where the planets are within approximately 120 degrees, one third of the circle. This describes an unswerving, concentrated energy. All of those Leo planets are in his 12th House, which is a signature for a film or theatrical director, a powerhouse behind the scenes. His Taurus stellium straddles his house of career, the 10th. This is the chart for someone who will make a lasting mark through long-term endeavors, and because of his natal lunar phase, just before the New Moon, he’s a seed sewer. Expect him to establish, maintain, construct, with style and be daring, possessing a smoldering inner intensity that is not always evident and therefore can surprise those unaware of it. As an image from nature he could be likened to a mountain with shifting plates working underneath. The key configurations as they relate to the AEC here are his stelliums in Leo and Taurus, his influential and unaspected Venus at one degree Cancer and that he has no Air sign planets. That his Venus is unaspected is important because an unaspected planet has “no controls”, or it isn’t siphoned off by other planets. Venus deals with associates, arts, and a person with an unaspected Venus would have an influence on others that they are not always conscious of. Because Roscoe’s Venus is the ruler of his Taurus Stellium, it has further significance.


trumpet, flugelhorn, percussion

Life Cast, bronze, with ceramic back, Amir Bey, 1989

Lester's Mars, Moon in zero degrees Cancer and Uranus in Taurus figure in the AEC's shared signs.

The late Lester Bowie: October 11, 1941, Frederick, Maryland, 5:30 PM, EST.
Lester’s chart has Mars in Aries as the ruler, just above the Ascendant and opposite his 7th House Sun; a fiery Libra indeed! This combination is an indication of much activity in the social sphere, a leader, and a pioneer. Note his zero degree Cancer Moon: (Along with Malachi, Lester shared his Moon sign with Ornette, Jimi Hendrix, Charlie Parker, and Fela Ransom Kuti was also a Libra with Cancer Moon.) His Jupiter in the 3rd House and Venus in Sagittarius, are harbingers for beneficial journeys overseas; Paris is where the AEC flourished on the world stage. Note also his Uranus in Taurus, which he shared with Roscoe and Joseph. Uranus there can be seen as a “reevaluation”, an innovative approach to basic standards.


accoustic and electric bass, percussion

Life Cast, bronze, with ceramic back, Amir Bey, 1989

Malachi Favors: The late, great spiritually tuned bassist did not want his birth data revealed to people while he was alive, and I will respect his wishes here, except to say that he was born in Chicago.

Malachi's concentration of Leo, Sun/Neptune conjunction, Cancer Moon, Taurus Midheaven are important links within the ensemble.

Malachi had a stellium in Leo, including his Sun, Neptune, Mercury, and Ascendant. A distinguishing characteristic of Malachi comes from his Sun/Neptune conjunction in the 1st House; onstage his persona had a transcendental quality that had many facets – spiritual, ancient, humorous, wise. These planets had a square to his Saturn, which shows him drawing from traditions as he also challenged them. His tight Jupiter/Uranus in Aries conjunction – a liberated, free spirit, a pioneer who’s ready to explore, is squaring his early degree Cancer Moon, another indication of one who has a restless nature that was sometimes at odds with an inherited status quo. Like Roscoe, Malachi had a Taurus Midheaven. Malachi also has no planets in Air signs.



reeds, percussion
(and one of my favorite gongs)
This is the album cover for Joseph Jarman's Song For, one of the earliest AACM albums, predating the Art Ensemble of Chicago

Life Cast, bronze, with ceramic back, Amir Bey, 1989

As noted above, all the birth times are from birth certificates, except with Joseph Jarman -“My mother said the church bells rang at 9 AM [CST]”…hmm an apt beginning for someone who uses gongs like Joseph! September 14, 1937, Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

Joseph's Sun/Mercury/Neptune in Virgo and Moon/Jupiter in the 3rd describe his writing, theater, and teaching Aikido. Having Uranus in Taurus, early Scorpio Ascendant and no Air planets, are "ensemble" afinities.
Joseph, along with Lester and Roscoe, has his Uranus in Taurus. This is a key planet for the Art Ensemble of Chicago. The planet of change and innovation is in the sign least noted for it. Both deal with will, determination, and thus a solid idealism. Uranus in Taurus challenges stability, asks it to adapt to new social currents and needs. Joseph has a Grand Trine in Earth that includes a stellium in Virgo – Sun, Mercury, Neptune, his Moon and Jupiter in Capricorn and his Uranus in Taurus. With so much Virgo and Earth, one might think of a musician who’d be overly conscious of perfection and imperfection. Yet, like Malachi we have a transcendentalist: a Sun/Neptune conjunction, and Joseph’s Scorpio Ascendant, with his chart’s ruler, Pluto, elevated (the topmost planet) in a tight conjunction with the Midheaven. As noted above, Joseph’s stellium includes Mercury, and with him we had a poet, as well as a musician. His writings –see Black Case can be attributed to his Moon/Jupiter conjunction in the 3rd House, which is another indication of travel, and the expansion of mental horizons. He is truly a renaissance artist. Joseph also has no planets in Air signs.



"Sun percussion"

Life Cast, bronze, with ceramic back, Amir Bey, 1989. Private collection, Tokyo

Famoudou Don Moye: May 23, 1946 Rochester, NY, 11:52 PM, EDT.
Moye joined the Art Ensemble of Chicago in early 1970. Along with Lester, Moye was the only AEC member with planets in Air signs. His Gemini Air Sun sign with a square from a Water sign Moon, Pisces, speaks of imagination, versatility, and intuitiveness.

Moye's Venus's sign and degree - zero Cancer - is important in the Art Ensemble natal charts.

His Sun/Moon combination makes me think of quicksilver! He has the ability to synthesize merge, and to create crescendos of sound. He’s one of the fastest drummers I’ve heard, one who combines theatrics that sometimes border on mime. –Silent communication can be a Moon in Pisces trait. Moye’s Mars/Pluto in his 7th House can describe the collective blending of energies within the ensemble. And Saturn, his chart’s ruler also in that House shows the importance of coordination in his social affairs. Later when we compare the two Composite charts for the AEC, we’ll see a dramatic change that in some ways didn’t actually “change” the band, but fulfilled its destiny as seen by the second chart’s similarities with Roscoe Mitchell’s natal chart. Moye’s Venus had just entered Cancer in his 6th House. Venus there gave him the role of enhancement in his work. I remember being struck by Joseph’s praise after a concert – thanking him – for his powerful contribution to a performance. Moye also shares a Mars in Leo with Roscoe.


Significant features running through these charts are: three of the charts have no Air sign planets; 4 of the charts have Moon or Venus in the first degree of Cancer. The breakdown is: Moon (Lester, Malachi), or Venus (Roscoe, Moye); even Joseph had his Chiron, which is not a planet, in zero degrees Cancer! This Moon/Venus quadruple combination in Cancer is Love, Appeal, Emotive; it was a binding force for the band, and it endeared them to others. Its placement at that point of the sign gave it a pronounced and effective role, a generative point of fertile productivity. This was truly a “family” with this placement. It's legendary that they would stay in a house for days playing, playing, and playing. I've heard about this when they lived in France, stayed in Southern California. This is a Cancerian kind of activity, in house, emmersing themselves in sound. The bond, musical and otherwise was tremendous. One might say that's what it would take for a band to develop and be a unit, but that kind of "shedding" isn't always possible, when some band members have other obligations. Yet this kind of dwelling in the music (Cancer rules the home and private life) shows that they lived it.

There is a preponderance of Fixed signs, particularly Leo and Taurus, with three original members having Uranus in Taurus, two of the quintet with Mars in Leo, and often the middle degrees of Leo and Taurus with those signs occurring frequently on the Angles, Midheaven, Ascendant, Nadir, and the Descendant. Taurus’s tradition is not in the social sense of Saturn and Capricorn’s; it's material, and involves the enduring yet mutable laws of nature. The electric planet Uranus and earthy Taurus: experimentation and understanding the firmament, how to redirect and release its resources. –Resources because Taurus is about personal wealth, and what gives us satisfaction and stability.

Altogether there is a high degree of individuality that is able to merge around common interests, as a family, and unit. Part of their charisma was not only their uniqueness as blazing lions, but also their commonality within that uniqueness, which is not easy to maintain. While these combinations are not in conflict with each other by aspect, they are different in nature, Yin and Yang; the Leo/Taurus/Uranus/Mars group is forceful, dynamic, hot, dry, explosive, theatrical and unsentimental. The Cancer/Moon/Venus conjunction is moist, flowing, fertile, and nurturing.

Their Moon/Venus in the first degree of Cancer is a critical point in time – the Summer Solstice occurs then, and the other three seasons aspect that point by square (the equinoxes) spring, Autumn), and opposition (Winter Solstice). Considering that this combination deals with wealth, joy, love, and nurturing, it was of great benefit for the Art Ensemble to have this connection with each other. They were fed by the year’s seasonal cycles, which provided essential energies that gave them an immense feeling of well being. Any group with this kind of linkage could receive and manifest from a powerful, rich, reservoir of positive self esteem.


A Composite chart is a chart that uses the midpoints by sign and degree for the points in two or more individuals’ charts. It is a blend, and allows the relationship between people to be read as one chart. There are two composite charts to consider for the AEC. While the Roscoe Mitchell Art Ensemble is the origin of the ensemble, because it had a different name and members it was a different entity to do a chart for. In this case we are concerned with the incarnations of The Art Ensemble of Chicago. The first one was the quartet of trumpeter Lester Bowie, bassist Malachi Favors, alto saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist Joseph Jarman, and the saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist Roscoe Mitchell. The second incarnation took place with the addition of drummer/percussionist Famoudou Don Moye in 1970. Again, no definite date exists or was available to me for their inception or for their first gig, so we’ll use the two Composite charts, which we’ll refer to below. While Roscoe is considered the co-founder and the ensemble had no “leader”, it’s fascinating that the composite charts bear the astrogenetics of his natal chart, especially the 2nd chart.


This is for Lester, Malachi, Joseph and Roscoe.

The first Composite chart, sans Moye, has a stellium in Virgo in the second House, with Mercury as the final dispositor – the planet that the other planet’s energies flow into. It has a Leo Moon and Ascendant with Uranus in Taurus at the Midheaven, Mars is in Scorpio, no Air signs. The emphasis of Virgo and the Earth Element suggest a crystal-like clarity. There is a harmony between concept and its articulation, into solid, precise enunciation. While the 10th House Uranus is the elevated planet, squaring the Ascendant – the status quo doesn’t get a break here! Because of the Grand Trine in Water, there is a static quality in the natural endowments of the ensemble. The Virgo Stellium in the 2nd ensures productivity, and I want to return to the word endowment and add stability, because of the Earth sign and the 2nd House emphasis. They were building in the first incarnation. The Lunar Phase does suggest “From the Ancient”, yet “To the Future” as it’s in the Moon’s “Seed” phase. Their innovations did not fly off without a solid connection to the past and personal self-development that had the interests of the collective because of Mars in Scorpio, which can also be the significator of a surgical team - a highly specialized and insular cell. With the first Composite chart, one could almost say that there is a strong affinity with Joseph’s astrogenetics, with the stellium in Virgo, and a Sun/Neptune in Virgo conjunction (as with Malachi’s Sun/Neptune in Leo) and a Grand Trine, albeit in Water as opposed to Joseph’s Earth Grand Trine. This would mean that transits to the Composite chart would aspect Joseph’s chart in similar ways.

Both Composite charts have no planets in Air signs. When a chart doesn’t have an element, sometimes it means that the meaning of the element becomes emphasized; due to a lack of it, it actually becomes more pronounced. What does the Air element signify? The Air element deals with communication, abstract concepts, fellowships, partnerships. It’s interesting that an ensemble would not have Air; it would be searching for fellowship, extending its ways of communication, and it would have the necessity to develop a philosophy, or concept. With the Art Ensemble the opposite element, Fire, would replace Air. The Art Ensemble had very strong Fire components, in the sign Leo, with Mars a Fire planet significantly placed. With the Art Ensemble, we have communication through fiery expression.


This is for Lester, Malachi, Joseph, Roscoe, and Moye.

With the second Composite chart we can see how Fire worked in ways that Air couldn’t, and how Air’s communication, fellowship, and concept was expressed by Fire’s flamboyant expressions of persona through theater and costume. With Famoudou Don Moye’s joining the Art Ensemble of Chicago, like the proverbial stone changing the stream, a second Composite chart was formed. This chart is more dynamic, less static and the Fire element is much stronger than in the first. There is a stellium in Leo that includes the Sun, Midheaven, Mercury, Venus, and the chart’s ruler, Pluto and the North Node. To this we can add Saturn in a Fire sign, Aries, and even fiery Mars just above the horizon, albeit in watery Scorpio. There is even a stronger emphasis than Fire; Fixed signs: the Moon and Uranus are in Taurus conjoining the 7th House cusp, the house of associates, which is an Air house, the Ascendant is in Scorpio as is Mars. There is a durable, very solid character here, a “permanent” influence. This brings us to Roscoe’s astrogenetics: his stelliums in Leo and Taurus with similar degrees as the Composite and his natal Mars’s House position matching the Composite’s illustrates his role as founder. When a group member’s chart is reflected this way, he will have a more central influence. For example, transiting aspects that will connect with his and the Composite will happen at the same time.

One manifestation of the Taurus Stellium as it pertains to the material, is the instruments that the Art Ensemble used in their performances. The assembly of gongs, belophones, vibes, chimes, bells, arranged onstage as they were formed an art installation in themselves that created an environment which was part of AEC experience.


Here's a video montage of THE ART ENSEMBLE OF CHICAGO:

Please note: usually I compare Davison Relationship charts with Composite charts because of the parallels between them. However, when more than two people are considered, as with the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Davion's planetary calculations change. If anyone is interested, here are my calculations for the AEC Davison:
October 27, 1938, 7:43'40" AM, EST 40N06'24" 84W40'12".

I've written about the parallels between Davison and Composites in THE COMPATIBILITY OF COMPOSITE AND DAVISON RELATIONSHIP CHARTS. For further information, please
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