YES! to this life-affirming version of this piece. As much as I've enjoyed archival presentations of Eastman's work, this vibrant and joyous take on Femenine is infinitely rewarding!
Favorite track: Unison.
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Out now, Los Angeles-based musical collective, Julius Eastman Vol. 1: Femenine is the opening entry in Wild Up’s multi-volume anthology celebrating Eastman, the late composer whose amalgamated musical vision was repeatedly dismissed during its day, but is now being unearthed to critical acclaim.
Championed by The New York Times for their “boisterously theatrical sensibility,” Wild Up slowly comes alive inside this recording of “Femenine,” the epitome of Eastman’s longform “organic music”—where phrases live inside of phrases, multiple layers ebbing and flowing with the passage of time. Within “Femenine,” Eastman, whose music The New Yorker hailed as “brazen and brilliant,” evolves material based on a two-note, 13-beat “prime” melody—a cosmic clamoring of bells. Simultaneously static and active, “Femenine” lulls listeners into musical reverie.
Eastman was young, gay, and Black at a time when it was even more difficult to be young, gay, and Black. He swerved through academia, discos, Europe, Carnegie Hall, and the downtown experimental music scene. And in 1990, at age 49, Eastman died in Buffalo, New York, less than a decade after the New York City Sheriff’s Department threw most of his scores, belongings, and ephemera into the East Village snow. In Wild Up’s unique 70-minute interpretation of Eastman’s open score, the ensemble is challenged to work in dialogue with the composer’s own creative impulses; in doing so, the band channels his individualistic spirit, augmenting “Femenine” with strategically placed solos—individual cantor-like proclamations. The recorded performance reflects a blend of strict adherence to Eastman’s specific instructions with an embrace of individual and collective decision-making within the ensemble, a continuous three-way conversation between Eastman, the individual members of Wild Up, and the group as a whole.
This album represents a departure for New Amsterdam Records, which until this point has exclusively released new music by active, living composers. Eastman is a special case, a composer whose music shines like a retroactive beacon to today’s musical creators. Any term used to characterize today’s musical landscape—”genre fluid” or the like—was anticipated by Eastman decades before; yet he was punished for being ahead of his time, both in the treatment of his music and, tragically, his person. Eastman’s music flowed freely from—and through—his myriad influences, and was terribly served by the musical infrastructure of his day. (At the time of his death, it took some eight months for a newspaper—any newspaper—to run his obituary). It makes sense, then, for “Femenine” to arrive on New Amsterdam Records—a sort of loving backwards embrace of a musical forefather to 21st century composers.
Eastman sometimes gifted copies of his musical scores. Now, over three decades since his death, his work is being regifted by those whose lives he touched. For Wild Up, to play Eastman’s music is to feel they are in, of, and visiting his world at the same time. Though the band worked with scrupulous care to realize this project, part of the joy of performing it is accepting that Julius Eastman's precise intentions for this elusive score will always remain something of a mystery—just a little out of reach. Still, in the frenzied ecstasy of performing his work, Wild Up feels a little more alive, a little more connected, a little more free, and by embarking on this anthology, they endeavor to carry this freedom forward.
released June 18, 2021
Richard Valitutto, piano / bells / leader
Seth Parker Woods, cello / leader
Sidney Hopson, vibraphone / prime
Andrew Tholl, violin / bells
Mona Tian, violin / bells
Linnea Powell, viola / bells
Derek Stein, cello / bells
Odeya Nini, voice
Jodie Landau, vibraphone / marimba / synth / voice / bells
Lewis Pesacov, bells
Jonah Levy, flugelhorn
Allen Fogle, horn
Shelley Washington, baritone saxophone / alto saxophone / bells
Erin Rogers, baritone saxophone / alto saxophone
Brian Walsh, tenor saxophone
Marta Tiesenga, baritone saxophone
Isabel Lepanto Gleicher, flutes / piccolo / bells
Erin McKibben, flutes / piccolo / bells
Christopher Rountree, music director / bells
Solos in order of appearance: Sidney Hopson, vibraphone (prime); richard valitutto, piano; Marta Tiesenga, baritone saxophone; Seth Parker Woods, cello; Jonah Levy, flugelhorn; Odeya Nini, voice; Allen Fogle, horn; Brian Walsh, tenor saxophone; Jodie Landau, synth and voice
Produced, recorded and mixed by Lewis Pesacov
Engineered by Clint Welander and Lewis Pesacov
Assistant engineer Nate Haessly
Recorded at Sunset Sound Recorders
Mixed at Ahata Sound
Mastered by Reuben Cohen at Lurssen Mastering, Los Angeles, CA
Called “a raucous, grungy, irresistibly exuberant … fun-loving, exceptionally virtuosic family” by Zachary Woolfe of the New
York Times, Wild Up has been lauded as one of classical music’s most exciting groups by virtually every significant institution and critic within earshot....more
supported by 189 fans who also own “Julius Eastman Vol. 1: Femenine”
"Eastman lived his life veering between irreconcilable extremes." Pitchfork has a great article that provides context: http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/17803-jace-clayton-the-julius-eastman-memory-depot/ Joe Holt
supported by 186 fans who also own “Julius Eastman Vol. 1: Femenine”
When the Yule season rolls around, I am hopeful that some thoughtful souls will silence the all-too-commonplace holiday jingle-jangle in the room and allow sufficient space and stillness to play — and •listen• to — this most etherial take on a classic German carol. Philip David Morgan