Monday, 16 July 2018

Julius Eastman - Unjust Malaise (2005 compi, rec. 1973 - circa 1981)

Some more of Julius Eastman's wonderful, singular music (previously posted: Femenine), in the first major excavation of recorded work from his lifetime.  Eastman can be heard at the end of this collection describing his style as "organic music", in which material is carried across from segment to segment before being gradually replaced by new material, in a distinctive, personalised take on the Downton NYC minimalist circle that he moved in.  Like Femenine, the six works in three hours contained here can sometimes require patience, but the payoffs are magical.

The compilation starts off in 1973 with Stay On It for voice, piano, violin, clarinet, saxes and percussion.  The central theme, sounding like an uplifting gospel/soul refrain, acts as a framing device for the increasingly abstract and improvisational sections, before the saxes start to play a more solemn reduction of the theme and piece ambles bluesily toward a quiet, reflective ending.  If You're So Smart, Why Aren't You Rich? (1977) for a larger, brass-dominated ensemble, isn't as immediately accessible - its focus on simple ascending chromatic scales can feel a bit spartan for a while, but it's well worth sticking with.

Next we get to hear Eastman's wonderful baritone voice in his unaccompanied prelude to The Holy Presence of Joan D'Arc, as the title figure is exhorted by various saints to "speak boldly".  The rest of the 1981 work is a formidable inquisition by ten cellos, and another highlight of the collection.  Lastly, a full concert from Northwestern University in 1980 (with its spoken intro tacked on the end, for whatever reason) presents three of Eastman's most iconoclastic pieces, played on four pianos.  Eastman explains that his use of the N-word in two of the titles (apparently part of a longer series) was as reappropriation; likewise, the rhythmically strident Gay Guerilla a call to activism.  All three are absolutely stunning to listen to, and occupy a sweet spot between the tightly formalised piano work of Reich and Glass and the abstract, textural drones of Charlemagne Palestine.

Disc 1 mega / zippy
Disc 2 mega / zippy
Disc 3 mega / zippy

4 comments:

  1. Thanks. Continuing to enjoy your offerings. Eastman's "Stay On It" is one of the best.

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  2. Thank you so muuuuch!

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  3. i've been looking for this for a long time. thanks a lot!

    ReplyDelete