Wild Up’s Anthology engages with the complex history of Julius Eastman’s legacy and ideas, including the titles of his work. Each person involved in making this Anthology negotiates their position and relationship to the n-word; thus, the word appears in several permutations throughout. We chose to use Eastman’s given titles in the track listing to honor the composer’s intentions. With this seven-volume project, Wild Up aims to be part of the ongoing social, political, and artistic dialogue and the circulation of Eastman’s work.
We are grateful for the deep and nuanced exploration of scholars, historians, artists, and critics internationally. Our collection of resources on titling and more, including Eastman’s own words, is available at: eastman.wildup.org
On June 16, 2023, GRAMMY-nominated musical collective Wild Up releases Julius Eastman Vol. 3: If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich, the follow-up to 2021’s Julius Eastman Vol. 1: Femenine, “a masterpiece” (The New York Times), and Julius Eastman Vol. 2: Joy Boy, which contains the GRAMMY-nominated closing track, “Stay On It.” Arriving once more on New Amsterdam Records, Julius Eastman Vol. 3: If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich is the third entry in Wild Up’s multi-volume anthology celebrating Eastman, the late composer whose musical vision was repeatedly dismissed during its day, but is now being unearthed to critical acclaim.
On Eastman Vol. 3, Wild Up are joined by two luminaries of modern music: Devonté Hynes (known both for their work as Blood Orange; collaborations with Solange, Harry Styles, and Philip Glass; and for soundtrack work on films like Gia Coppola’s Palo Alto and 2019’s acclaimed Queen & Slim) & Adam Tendler (whose music has been deemed “emotionally involving and musically rewarding” by The New York Times).
Both appear on the first available selection from Eastman Vol. 3, the confrontational composition “Evil N—,” a cutting political statement and a transformational, near-cacophonous musical experience. The 21-minute performance begins with Hynes and Tendler executing restlessly trilling piano parts, while WIld Up’s string performers contribute a dense, humid atmosphere. It all builds to a head when a voice counts off: “1, 2, 3, 4!” An assertive, devious central refrain hits, before another build begins, with new elements added each time: piercing flutes, placid atmospheres, uncertain resolutions. Rife with sweeping gesture and ominous climax, it’s a masterful interpretation of one of Eastman’s most formidable works.
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 his scores, belongings, and ephemera into the East Village snow.
Julius Eastman Vol. 3: If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich finds Wild Up deftly navigating some of Eastman’s most treacherous compositional terrain, and emerging with an ever more nuanced interpretation of his ambitious artistic intent. The cinematic title track exhibits dynamism and intrigue amid an almost-thwarted catharsis, boisterous brass figures trailing off into scattered pieces at the height of the work’s slow boil, while “The Moon’s Silent Modulation” ponders a sort of stillness before an almost demonic chorus of voices and hand percussion introduce a devious jolt. All throughout, Wild Up’s performers operate with virtuosity and an explosive verve — these sonic behemoths are not for the faint of heart, and Wild Up meet their peculiar demands with enthusiasm.
Wild Up’s Eastman anthology represents a departure for New Amsterdam Records, which, until Femenine and Joy Boy, had exclusively released new music by active, living composers. But Eastman is a special case, a composer whose music shines like a 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 Wild Up’s Eastman anthology to arrive on New Amsterdam Records, a sort of loving backward embrace of a musical torchbearer to 21st-century composers.