Sunday, August 29, 2021

Julius Eastman's "Three Extended Pieces for Four Pianos" released: Jul 16 | Alex Ross on "Julius Eastman’s Florid Minimalism" | The New Yorker

Not unlike some of his African American contemporaries such as Olly Woodrow Wilson Jr. and George E. Lewis, Julius Eastman remained in the margins of his respective facet of the contemporary classical world for the majority of his lifetime. A member of The Creative Associates, a prestigious body of classical music academics at SUNY Buffalo's Center for the Performing Arts, Eastman was also a founding member of the S.E.M. Ensemble in the mid-1970s, alongside composer Petr Kotik. Often overlooked in the histories of modern composers and the avant-garde, features spanning the last few years, like The New Yorker's "The Genius and the Tragedy of Julius Eastman", and "Minimalist Composer Julius Eastman, Dead for 26 Years, Crashes the Canon", for the New York Times, go some way to offer corrective consideration of Eastman's contribution to 20th century classical music. The Guardian details how it was that when the composer and pianist died homeless in 1990, and it appeared that his music would die with him, it was listeners and one tireless researcher who refused to let that happen, “Julius Eastman: The Groundbreaking Composer America Almost Forgot”. Which brings us to 2018 and the release of a small abundance of Eastman's work on labels such as Blume and the compositions that comprise what Eastman called "The Nigger Series". Released in short succession after Frozen Reeds edition of "Femenine", this revival of sorts has led to an overdue scenario in which, 28 Years After His Death, a Composer Gets a Publishing Deal”. The summer of 2021 sees two releases on Belgium's longrunning experimental label, Sub Rosa, including "Three Extended Pieces For Four Pianos", and of "Femenine", in new performances by ensemble 0 and Aum Grand Ensemble.

Alex Ross writes in the New Yorker on the ongoing canonization of what many consider to be Eastman's masterpiece, Julius Eastman’s Florid Minimalism: The Composer’s Thunderous, Propulsive 'Femenine' is Becoming a Modern Classic", and in the pages of the New York Times, the meditative, sprawling composition is being explored in performances around the world, 31 years after his death, “From a Composer’s Resurgence, a Masterpiece Rises. Alongside the preservationist work of Rocco Di Pietro, American minimalist composer Mary Jane Leach has proven herself to be Eastman's most tireless advocate. In interview with The Guardian, Leach traces this back to 1998, when Leach began teaching composition at Cal Arts. Attempting to track down an Eastman piece for 10 cellos she’d seen him conduct in 1981, Leach encountered a series of dead ends: “It gradually dawned on me. All his music was missing.” As a consequence, Leach became “an accidental musicologist”, hunting for Eastman’s lost works. “My analogy is like coming across an accident,” she says. “I couldn’t walk away and hope someone else would show up.” This would begin a decades-long endeavor of discovery, revival and preservation “In Search of Julius Eastman", which she maps for New Music. Leach herself becoming a point of discussion around the shepherding of Eastman's legacy, writing an editorial for Art News on Julius Eastman, she inquires, "How to Talk About History? A Composer Wonders How to Handle Incendiary Titles by Composer Julius Eastman". Equally complex in its nuance, and touching on correlative questions related to the avant-garde, Bradly Bailey's "In the Shadow of Ideals", for Sound American acts as an insightful companion read.