On May 28, 1990, the composer and performer Julius Eastman passed away at age 49 in Millard Fillmore Hospital in Buffalo, New York. Nine months later, his obituary appeared in The Village Voice; none of his friends and colleagues knew until then. Eastman was a brilliant singer, extraordinary pianist, politically aggressive gay African-American, had an outrageous personality, and was one of the more significant composers of the minimalist generation who was known for his challenging and complex scores. "He was a composer of visionary power, a singer with a cavernous bass voice, a collaborator with the diverse likes of Meredith Monk and Pierre Boulez," according to a recent New YorkTimes article on the renewed interest in Eastman, his work and the significant impact he made on the New York classical music scene.
Eastman’s works included bluntly confrontational titles such as Evil Nigger and Crazy Nigger interpreted as controversial and offensive to some audiences. For the composer, they were a pungent socioeconomic statement on America. In his own words describing the signifcance of these titles, below is a recorded link to his introduction at Northerwestern University at a June 1980 perfomance, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E2XtFZMpwm0
In keeping with its commitment to recognize Buffalo’s cultural artistic significance in the development of the avant garde art scene, the Burchfield Penney Art Center will pay tribute to the unsung composer as part of The Center’s M&T Second Friday celebrations. This is a free event thanks to M&T Bank and the Cullen Foundation.
Burchfield Rotunda - 5:30 PM
Buddha - Sotto Voce Vocal Collective
Reception Space - 6:00 PM
Stay On It - Buffalo Chamber Players
East Gallery - 6:30 PM
Buddha - Sotto Voce Vocal Collective
East Gallery - 7 PM: Gay Guerilla - performed by Buffalo Chamber Players and Bufluxus
Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Auditorium - 8 PM: LIMITED SEATING, FREE TICKETS ISSUED NIGHT OF PERFORMANCE ON A FIRST-COME, FIRST-SERVED BASIS
Talk/Book Signing by Renee Levine Packer, author of Gay Guerrilla: Julius Eastman and His Music
Crazy Nigger - performed and arranged by percussionist Amy Knoles
Photographic and Score Exhibition - A collection of photos and posters by Christine Rusiak
About Julius Eastman
Julius Eastman was a composer, vocalist, pianist, choreographer, and dancer. Born in Harlem Hospital in New York City, he trained as a pianist and choirboy while growing up in Ithaca, N.Y. After a year of piano study at Ithaca College, he was accepted at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia in 1959.
In 1968 he moved to Buffalo, N.Y., where he was a member of the Center of the Creative and Performing Arts (A.K.A the Creative Associates), a SUNY Buffalo music fellowship program founded in 1964 by Lukas Foss and Alan Sapp. Eastman was one of approximately 120 musicians that came to Buffalo as a Creative Associate until the program's close in 1980.
Eastman’s usage of provocative words and performances, notably his 1975 participation in a John Cage piece during the inaugural June in Buffalo Festival in which he made sexual comments about his male and female assistants on stage, was not only to rile audience members, but also make important comments on America’s conservative social and economic stance during an era of non-inclusion and bigotry that plagued the African American and LGBTQ communities.
While in Buffalo, Eastman performed and toured in works by many of the most prominent contemporary composers in the nation, as well as performing his own pieces. Eastman also wrote compositions for ensembles and/or instruments that he didn't play. Making bold social statements through composition, he embodied the environment of Western New York’s vital experimental and multi-disciplinary art scene.
“... [O]nce he left Buffalo [for Manhattan in 1976], the tone of the titles of his pieces started to change, from The Moon's Silent Modulation (1970) to If You're So Smart, Why Aren't You Rich (1977), Evil Nigger(1979), etc.,” notes author/composer/performer Mary Jane Leach in The Julius Eastman Project. “Not only had Julius left the protective and nurturing environment of Buffalo, but in New York the divisions between the Uptown and Downtown music scene were more evident, and Julius was caught between both worlds. He had a foot in both camps.”
Eastman died alone of cardiac arrest at the age of 49 in Millard Fillmore Hospital in Buffalo. Much of his work was lost or forgotten for decades until a renewed wave of interest brought him posthumous acclaim in the 21st century, including a boxed set of his work and a book on his life and music.
About Amy Knoles
Amy Knoles tours globally performing computer assisted live electronic music with percussion controllers and linear/interactive video. Her work has been described as being of "frightening beauty, fascinating, complex" by National Public Radio (NPR). A "Los Angeles' new music Luminary, infinitely variable, infinitely fascinating" - Los Angeles Times.
She is the recipient of the 2006 Meet The Composer Commissioning Music Award to create the piece Sacred Cow with Butoh Dancer Michael Sakamoto, the 2005 American Composers Forum Subito Grant 2007 & 2005, the Durfee Grant - 2003, "UNESCO International Prize for the Performing Arts - 2000," the 1999-2000 "Individual Artist Fellowship" Award from C.O.L.A., the 2001 Lester Horton Award for "Outstanding Achievement in Original Music for Dance," and she was the 1996 ASCAP Foundation" Composer-in-Residence at the Music Center of Los Angeles," recently created a sound environment for the J. Paul Getty Museum's walking tour, and the composer for Collage Dance Theater.
Knoles has been the Executive Director of the California E.A.R. Unit for 26 years (recently awarded the "Letter of distinction" from the American Music Center) which had been the Ensemble in Residence at the Los Angeles county Museum of Art for 19 years, now finds their home at REDCAT. She has also worked with the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group, Kronos Quartet, Pierre Boulez, Rachel Rosenthal, LA Master Chorale, NatPlast, Ensemble Modern of Frankfurt, The Bang On A Can All Stars, The Paul Dresher Ensemble, Collage Dance Theater, Basso Bongo, Squint, J. Cage, E. Carter, M. Feldman, A. Knowles, L. Andriessen, M. Kagel, C. Wourinin, J. Wolfe, D. Preston, F. Zappa, M. Subotnick, S. Reich, T. Machover, Flea, Q. Jones, and many others.
Amy has recorded nearly 30 CDs of new music and is proud to announce the release of her solo recordings "Men in the Cities" and 2 x 10 x 10 x 10 + 1", on the Echograph Label.
About Renée Levine Packer
Renée Packer was the administrative director of the Center of the Creative and Performing Arts at SUNY at Buffalo under the direction of Lukas Foss and Allen Sapp. Following their departure from Buffalo, she became co-director of the Center alongside Jan Williams and Morton Feldman.