Saturday, February 24, 2018

John Malveaux: Los Angeles Times: Julius Eastman — African American, militantly gay and alienated by the musical world at the time — wrote the provocatively titled "Evil Nigger"

Pianists Michelle Cahn, left, Joanne Pearce Martin, Vicky Ray and Dynasty Battles perform Julius Eastman's piece during the Green Umbrella concert Tuesday at Walt Disney Concert Hall.
 (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

John Malveaux of 

KUSC Radio "OPEN EAR" ( a series of stories about composers, musicians, and conductors who deserve more recognition) profiled composer Julius Eastman January 11, 2018. Julius Eastman’s provocatively titled Evil Nigger was performed during LA Phil Green Umbrella concert on February 20th. See Mark Swed-LA Times critic's review specific to Eastman's piece:
"Julius Eastman — African American, militantly gay and alienated by the musical world at the time — wrote the provocatively titled "Evil Nigger" nine years earlier than "L's G.A.," and it is a shocking reminder of the roots of racial issues. Eastman had a meteoric rise as baritone, pianist and visionary composer and a tragic fall. He died in obscure poverty at age 49 in 1990, much of his work lost. But in the last couple of years, he has undergone so remarkable a revival that he seems about to turn into an outsider icon.
The performance was introduced with an archival recording of Eastman eloquently explaining his title at the 1979 premiere. He said he felt there was, for him, an elegant fundamentalism to a term that had become disabused. Of course, he knew full well that he was asking for, and wanting, trouble.
The work in question indeed asks for trouble, and it is amazing. Written for four or more melody instruments (Eastman used pianos because that's what he had), it is a nearly indecipherable and somewhat Minimalist score with melodic lines of repeated notes and tremolos presented without instruction. The result is a work that shares many repetitious and harmonic aspects of the phase and pulse music that Philip Glass and Steve Reich were writing at the time, but Eastman adds an element of unpredictable ecstatic liberation.
It is almost as though the notes themselves are packed with helium. For an unrelenting 22 minutes, Dynasty Battles, Michelle Cann, Joanne Pearce Martin and Vicki Ray produced great piano waves that grew, crested and broke, each more exhilarating than the last. When it all ended, I had the sensation of a fundamental cause that could not be stopped."

Compliments to KUSC Radio "Open Ear" and LA Phil Green Umbrella concert series. YES WE CAN. See

1 comment:

billd said...

Controversial pick by LA Phil for Black History month Did they market the concert in the Black community ? Did you attend