– 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: