Prominent experimental composer and performer … Julius Eastman. Photograph: LCMF
Tuesday 20 December 2016
The London Contemporary Music festival has already shown it reaches areas of new music that mainstream concert series rarely explore. This year’s programme offered three days of concerts built around the elusive figure of Julius Eastman, whose works are being rediscovered after more than two decades of obscurity following his death, destitute and ignored, in 1990 at the age of 49.
Eastman was a performer as well as a composer – he was the vocalist on the first recording of Peter Maxwell Davies’ Eight Songs for a Mad King. In the 1970s and 80s he was a prominent figure on the New York experimental scene, with a series of works inhabiting that musical territory where the worlds of minimalism, jazz and pop collide. He collaborated with Meredith Monk and Robert Wilson, and developed a reputation for being outrageous. As the three works in the last of the LCMF programmes showed, his brand of minimalism was more anarchic and rougher-edged than anything by Reich, Riley or Glass, less concerned with musical process and more with the almost physical effects of repetition.