king ubu

Julius Eastman, composer

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Got this new release by Intakt yesterday and gave it a first spin right away. I remember how, travelling to Willisau by train last year, I met Patrik Landolt (Intakt producer) and how he almost wouldn't stop talking of this piano quartet and their performances of music by Julius Eastman. I had never heard the name of Eastman before but my curiosity was piqued for sure!

The concert that took place in Zurich in November I couldn't attend alas (I was between jobs and taking some time off to travel, thus missed the entire Unerhört festival, including a re-union of sorts of the London Jazz Composers Orchestra, which was in fact a mixture of Barry Guy's Blue Shroud Band, adding some of the old cohorts--but I bet it was amazing!). The CD was recorded a few weeks after that concert, but the quartet has been together for a few years and has played many concerts--right now they're doing a series of "guerilla concerts" and I hope to catch one next week, on a worday afternoon at an arts gallery ... I guess they will bring their battered uprights, not use concert grands like they did in the studio.

Details on the CD can be found here:
http://www.intaktrec.ch/306-a.htm

The music, I canno't really describe, it's minimal of sorts, it's very intense ... sometimes, the pianos are prepared, sometimes they're not, structures keep evolving, tension keeps building, sometimes almost to the point of becoming unbearably intense.

Blurb from the Intakt website:

The Kukuruz Quartet was first seen and heard making their contribution to a production at the Zurich Schauspielhaus. Kukuruz was engaged with notated classical music, advanced new music, with jazz and improvisation. 2014 Kukuruz started their involvement with Julius Eastman and his musical works. In 2017, their performance at documenta 14 in the Megaro Mousikis concert hall in Athens earned a standing ovation. They performed works by Julius Eastman: 'Evil Nigger', 'Gay Guerrilla', 'Buddha' and 'Fugue No. 7'. The recording of these compositions followed in November 2017 on four Steinway D pianos in the main hall of the historic Radiostudio Zürich.
Composer, trombonist and scholar George E. Lewis, who knew Eastman personally and played with him, writes in the liner notes: "This brilliant recording by the Kukuruz Quartet constitutes an important new contribution to the growing corpus of performances of music by the composer, pianist, and singer Julius Eastman (1940-1990), who came to prominence in the experimental music scene of the 1970s and 1980s ... On this recording, the Kukuruz Quartet renders Eastman's spirit of adventure audible and sensuous, exemplifying a new, creolized formation of contemporary classical music that is able to embrace a multicultural, multi-ethnic usable past and thinkable future that can affirm our common humanity in the pursuit of new music."
 

--

There's stuff on youtube which I still need to check out myself--maybe this for starters (the piece is on the Intakt disc as well):

If you go over to YT to play it (be aware, they'll track you! but so they do when you play the above in this window), you'll be directed to more.

New World has a three-disc release titled  "Unjust Malaise" as well as a release of "The Zurich Concert" from 1980--guess these would be fine additions to the new one on Intakt. Does anybody know them?
http://www.newworldrecords.org/album.cgi?rm=view&album_id=94885
http://www.newworldrecords.org/album.cgi?rm=view&album_id=15097

 

Square_Julius-Eastman_Photo-Christine-Ru

Julius Eastman in 1974 (photo: Christine Rusiniak)

 

Some more stuff to read (I borrowed the photo from the first of these):

https://www.villagevoice.com/2018/05/02/hammered-into-clouds-nine-beginnings-for-julius-eastman/

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/sep/14/julius-eastman-american-composer-pianist-femenine

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/01/22/the-genius-and-the-tragedy-of-julius-eastman

Edited by king ubu

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There's been a decided upsurge in interest in Eastman's music over here in the last couple of years. Programmed at the Barbican and Cafe Oto that I'm aware of.

I've liked what little I've listened to from 'Unjust Malaise'. I need to listen to more.

Looking at the Discogs entry again I see that he provided the vocals for Maxwell-Davies and Fires Of London's 'Eight Songs For A Mad King', now that I didn't realise. Great recording from 1973

Edited by mjazzg

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Incredible music! One performance which I think is really worth anyone's time checking out is by Eastman's own group doing 'Stay On It' at the CCA in Glasgow.

I think the key here is the wildness and improvisatory freedom, whereas I have heard Eastman's music done in more of a 'museum piece' contemporary classical 'repertory' way, which I don't think quite captures it...

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... which is why I think doing something like that on Intakt (as opposed to, I don't know who'd actually this in the classical world) is quite a good idea. On the label's site (linked) above you can sample the new disc.

I'll check out the vimeo link later, thanks!

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I definitely know "Unjust Malaise". Not for the faint of heart or easily bored! Which is just to say, a very specific music delivered with bottomless focus and intensity.

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9 minutes ago, JSngry said:

I definitely know "Unjust Malaise". Not for the faint of heart or easily bored! Which is just to say, a very specific music delivered with bottomless focus and intensity.

done ordered :tup

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Thanks Chuck, will gladly check out her website! :tup 

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He's rad. I work with Robert Wilson and Eastman conducted some of the music for one of Wilson's late 70s works. They traveled in similar circles around the early 80s Downtown nexus.

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Thanks Flurin for the details on this Intakt release. Unjust Malaise collects a lot of his best works and has very good notes from Mary Jane Leach. I especially enjoy The Holy Presence of Joan d'Arc on that one, but all tracks are quite something. That release got me seriously interested.

If I remember correctly, this interview of him is also quite fascinating:

https://spinningonair.org/episode-2-julius-eastman/

There is a recording of one of his pieces Femenine on the Finnish label Frozen Reeds which is also very nicely done. And they also released this track: https://frozenreeds.bandcamp.com/album/joy-boy

Edited by OliverM

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Great show on BBC 4 today: Un-forgetting Julius Eastman presented by vocalist Elaine Mitchener with interviews of Mary Jane Leach and George Lewis

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000112x

Edited by OliverM

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Thanks for the alert.

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