NYC-born composer Julius Eastman was young, gay, and black when it was even more difficult to be young, gay, and black in America. He swerved in, out, and through academia, downtown experimental music, discos, European tours, sex clubs, and Carnegie Hall...There’s something about the identity and presence of Eastman’s music that engages us and makes us obsessed. It’s music that, we’ve found, lives in the minds of audiences unlike anything else we’ve performed. With our recordings and performances, we endeavor to discover the way to carry his music forward.
- Wild Up
The music of Julius Eastman continues to resonate across the United States in 2023. April is a particularly exciting time for the composer’s music, highlighted in performances by two major American ensembles. Wild Up, the essential new music group based in Los Angeles, presents a two-day retrospective of Eastman’s music at the 92nd Street Y in New York City April 21-22. The following weekend, the mighty Cleveland Orchestra performs Eastman’s Symphony No. II - The Faithful Friend: The Lover Friend's Love for the Beloved April 27-29, under the baton of Music Director Franz Welser-Möst.
Among the foremost champions of Julius Eastman, Wild Up and their Artistic Director Christopher Rountree are currently producing a seven-volume recorded anthology of Eastman’s music and have been touring programs of his music around the United States. The two albums they have already released credit several ensemble members as “leaders” of the sessions, including cellist Seth Parker Woods, pianist Richard Valitutto, organist Andrew McIntosh, guitarist Jiji, and saxophonist Shelley Washington; Rountree is additionally credited as music director. This collaborative approach underscores the democratic, empowering nature of Eastman’s work, and the integrity of Wild Up’s anthology.
Saturday’s matinee performance commences with Eastman’s popular Stay On It and continues with a focus on Eastman’s piano music, featuring guest artists Devonté Hynes and Adam Tendler.
The retrospective culminates with a special five-hour performance of Eastman’s egg-shaped, open-score epic Buddha. The work’s single line of music and its infinite possibilities for interpretation invite a profound exploration of Eastman’s sound world. Attendees are invited to hear some music, break for dinner, return for more music, spend time at our bar with the musicians, and come and go freely, as the artists in the ever-changing ensemble will do themselves throughout the performance.
Symphony No. II was composed by Eastman in 1983, as a love letter of sorts to his then partner R. Nemo Hill. Subtitled The Faithful Friend: The Lover Friend's Love for the Beloved, the Symphony is a single-movement largo scored for a large orchestra that includes 24 timpani and an arsenal of low winds and brass. Its massive sonority is eerie, shattering, and often tender, with several duets throughout the piece that represent the composer’s longing and adoration. The Symphony was last performed by the New York Philharmonic in 2022 and now makes its way to Cleveland, where its lush, powerful disquiet will be brought to life by The Cleveland Orchestra. The G. Schirmer performance edition of Symphony No. II was edited by noted Eastman scholar Luciano Chessa, who also contributed to the seminal Eastman monograph Gay Guerrilla.