The definitive edition of the historical recording of Julius Eastman's major piece performed in 1974 by S.E.M. Ensemble, remastered by Jim O'Rourke
, available on vinyl for the first time.
In 2016, Frozen Reeds published the première release of Julius Eastman's Femenine
, for chamber ensemble. Laying unheard for decades prior, the release documented a 1974 performance by the S.E.M. Ensemble with the composer himself on piano.
It is now available on vinyl for the first time, in a revelatory new remaster by Jim O'Rourke.
The first release of Femenine
served as the catalyst that propelled Eastman's music into the mainstream. Articles on Eastman's music and its immediate disruptive impact on the classical canon began to appear in every major news organ in the English-speaking world and beyond. His music began to be programmed in major concerts and festivals, several of these entirely themed around his life and work. New recordings sprang up from a fresh generation of musicians engaging with his ideas and interpreting them for a modern audience hungry to hear more.
But the raw, emotionally cascading spirit of the original performance continues to inspire listeners. Joyous, insistent, and immersive, Femenine
bathes the listener in surges of tonal colour from intertwining winds, piano, violin, pitched percussion, synthesizer and—uniquely—the composer's own invention of mechanised sleigh bells, which provide the 72-minute piece with its characteristic pulse.
was recorded live by Steve Cellum—co-producer of Arthur Russell's World of Echo—and the new vinyl reissue has been remastered from the original high-definition tape transfer by Jim O'Rourke at his Steamroom studio in the Japanese mountains.
Illuminating sleeve notes are provided by composer and author Mary Jane Leach
, key figure of the Eastman revival and co-editor of the Gay Guerrilla
collection of essays on his life and music.
"Eastman's stated aim with Femenine was to please listeners, saying of the piece that 'the end sounds like the angels opening up heaven . . . should we say euphoria?'
—Mary Jane Leach
Recorded live on Wednesday, November 6, 1974 at Composers Forum in Albany, The Arts Center on the Campus of the Academy of the Holy Names, Albany, New York.
Julius Eastman (1940-1990) was an American composer, pianist, vocalist, and dancer whose work fell under minimalism. He was among the first composers to combine minimalist processes with elements of pop music.
There was some for John Cage
, then came Christian Wolff
, and finally Morton Feldman
, from this school in New York
. Only Julius Eastman remained outside the game, the last figure, the most solitary and enigmatic—undoubtedly also one of the most powerful. In the 1970s and 1980s, Eastman was one of the very few African-Americans to gain recognition in the New York avant-garde music scene. He was politically committed, a figure of queer culture and a solar and solitary poet whose melancholy influenced his genius as well as his tragic destiny: suffering from various addictions, declared missing, actually homeless. During Winter of 1981-82, he got deported from his apartment by the police, who destroyed most of what he owned—including scores and recordings. He was found dead in 1990, on the streets of Buffalo, after years of vagrancy.