Julius Eastman: Unjust Malaise

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Uncle Dave Lewis
Julius Eastman 1940-1990 was a composer in good company around 1970. The booklet to New World Records' survey of Eastman's never-before-issued compositions contains a number of group shots showing Eastman in the presence of such luminaries as Lukas Foss, Lejaren Hiller, Pauline Oliveros, Jan Williams, Eberhard Blum, David Del Tredici, Morton Feldman, and other first-tier proponents of contemporary music of that time. The fact that Eastman's face is the only black one in these photos seems not to have impacted the attitude of his colleagues, any more than Oliveros or Renée Levine, then director of the University at Buffalo's Center of the Creative and Performing Arts, ...
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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Uncle Dave Lewis
Julius Eastman 1940-1990 was a composer in good company around 1970. The booklet to New World Records' survey of Eastman's never-before-issued compositions contains a number of group shots showing Eastman in the presence of such luminaries as Lukas Foss, Lejaren Hiller, Pauline Oliveros, Jan Williams, Eberhard Blum, David Del Tredici, Morton Feldman, and other first-tier proponents of contemporary music of that time. The fact that Eastman's face is the only black one in these photos seems not to have impacted the attitude of his colleagues, any more than Oliveros or Renée Levine, then director of the University at Buffalo's Center of the Creative and Performing Arts, presence as the only women in these images might suggest. Eastman's blackness, combined with his uncompromising, difficult career choices, politically incorrect subject material, and vulnerability in the age of Jesse Helms are all reasons why New World Records' Julius Eastman: Unjust Malaise marks the very first inkling we've had on disc of what an unbelievable talent Eastman was, and the nature of his singular contribution to American classical music. He didn't make it easy for anyone to grasp, perform, or to conserve his music, and to savor the challenge of Unjust Malaise one must be prepared to meet Eastman at least halfway, to accept his anger and to forgive his carelessness in certain respects. Unjust Malaise is a three-disc set made up of seven pieces, all rather long, and a monologue delivered by Eastman, rescued by producer Mary Jane Leach from university-made tapes of concerts and a privately made tape from the Third Street Music School Settlement. Eastman was an early minimalist, drawing inspiration from Terry Riley's "In C" as a formal jumping off point, but diverging from the standards of the era in almost every other way. Eastman also sidesteps one's preconceived notions about what a black classical composer is about, as although improvisation is central to his art, there is nothing whatsoever "jazzy" about his work, though sometimes it evokes ideas common to gospel and other folk forms. Eastman is lucky that the university recording engineers who captured these pieces did such an excellent job in recording them -- this was the exception, not the rule, when open reel tape was king at institutions of learning. "Stay On It" 1973 is an obvious early masterwork of minimalism and one cannot imagine what prevented this title from being issued on LP at the time. The weakest piece not by much has the best title, "If You're So Smart, Why Aren't You Rich?" 1978. Not only is it a sendup of serial technique, with the chromatic scale rising from bottom to top, it also seems to take off Louis Armstrong's obligatory habit of rising to the top note of his trumpet at the end of many pieces he played. The most stunningly beautiful work here is "The Holy Presence of Joan d'Arc" 1981, performed by an ensemble of 10 cellos, but all of Eastman's pieces are gloriously messy, highly personal statements that are nonetheless completely original. Kyle Gann's impassioned notes are well worth reading also, and set the stage for more installments of Eastman's recordings. One wonders where the audience is to cultivate for this kind of material -- Eastman's choice of titles, his disdain of tradition, and lack of gloss might well discourage many listeners who would normally embrace and accept his work out of hand. With any luck, Unjust Malaise will make Eastman's case, although it will almost certainly be controversial and elicit any number of conflicting opinions as to its relative value. That's fine, as long as Unjust Malaise is not ignored.
Time Out New York - Molly Sheridan
This music is a sort of delicious madness, and it punches a hole right into your chest.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 11/29/2005
  • Label: New World Records
  • UPC: 093228063827
  • Catalog Number: 80638
  • Sales rank: 249,058

Tracks

Disc 1
  1. 1 Stay on It, for voice & ensemble - Julius Eastman & Julius Eastman (24:29)
  2. 2 If You're So Smart, Why Aren't You Rich?, for chamber ensemble - Julius Eastman & Julius Eastman (24:38)
  3. 3 The Holy Presence of Joan d'Arc, for solo voice: Prelude - Julius Eastman & Julius Eastman (11:45)
  4. 4 The Holy Presence of Joan d'Arc, for 10 cellos - Julius Eastman & Julius Eastman (20:37)
  5. 5 Gay Guerrilla, for 4 pianos - Julius Eastman & Julius Eastman (29:07)
  6. 6 Evil Nigger, for 4 pianos - Julius Eastman & Julius Eastman (21:29)
  7. 7 Crazy Nigger, for 4 pianos - Julius Eastman & Julius Eastman (55:20)
  8. 8 Julius Eastman's spoken introduction to the Northwestern University concert - Spoken Word & Julius Eastman (6:25)
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