Check out Julius Eastman’s “Gay Guerrilla”

EastmanFull“A guerrilla is someone who is sacrificing his life…
Without blood there is no cause…
I use (the term) Gay Guerrilla in the hopes
that I might be one if called upon.”

– Julius Eastman

After Julius Eastman’s never-fully explained death in 1990, his legacy was thought to be lost.   Four years ago he was rescued from obscurity by the release “Unjust Malaise” (New World Records). The result of years of dogged research and recovery by composer Mary Jane Leach, the collection consisted of 3 CDs worth of archival concert recordings.

This past fall, one of Eastman’s most infamous works, “Gay Guerrilla” (1979), received a new and pristine performance.  The event came together as a result of conversations between three faculty members at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY.  Michael Century was searching for something with multiple keyboards and Pauline Oliveros remembered the piece, which requires four pianos and lasts about 30 minutes.  Leach was on hand to provide the score.

The November 18, 2009 performance took place in the resplendent concert hall of RPI’s lavish arts center known as EMPAC.  The performers are Century, Max Canaday, Catherine Chou, and André Watson.

Here’s the video:

About two thirds of the way through the piece, Eastman quotes the Lutheran hymn “Ein feste Burg ist unser Got” (A mighty fortress is our God), re-interpreting that affirmation of faith as a sonic manifesto, then concludes with the majestic rising modal scale that helps make this work an anthem to liberation unique in contemporary classical music.

Century’s new performing edition of “Gay Guerrilla” will soon be available through Leach, who maintains an archive of known Eastman scores and recordings.

Previously on My Big Gay Ears:

Julius Eastman’s Lost Legacy



3 Responses to “Check out Julius Eastman’s “Gay Guerrilla””

  1. grace says:

    Hi, I want to use the Eastman quotation, and I want to cite it, but I can’t find it anywhere except here. Can you tell me where/ when he said that?”

  2. jody says:

    The entire quote is on the video. I’ve asked Mary Jane Leach to respond with when/where he said it, if she knows.

  3. The quote is from a pre-concert speach that Eastman gave at the Northwestern concert of “Crazy Nigger,” “Gay Guerilla,” and “Evil Nigger” in 1980. The speach is on the “Unjust Malaise” cd.

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