27.6.2018, 20:30, Hlubina Coal Mine

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Composition for voices, 1971–1972

Music: Julius Eastman

S.E.M. Ensemble

Czech premiere, 17 min

Julius Eastman composed Macle in the last months of 1971 for the S.E.M. Ensemble’s first European tour in January and February of 1972. The piece was written for the four original members of the Ensemble: Jan Williams, Roberto Laneri, Petr Kotik and Eastman himself. Although all of us, except for Julius, were instrumentalists, Macle is an entirely vocal composition and calls for a performance in which everyone sings, talks, screams, whispers etc. The three of us had never performed as vocalists, but I do not recall a single problem in rehearsing and performing the piece. Among some memorable performances of Macle, I distinctly remember one at the Akademie der Kunste in Berlin, running through the large auditorium to the amazement of the audience. I am grateful to Jeffrey Gavett and Chris McIntyre who resurrected this piece out of obscurity, and enabled me to restore the work, as close as I can remember, to its original shape.

Petr Kotik, January 22, 2018

Even in the relatively liberal environment of the NYC music scene, composer, pianist and singer Julius Eastman (1940-1990) cut a rebellious, radical figure: an Afro-American in generally white circles, and an openly gay man at that… His take on Song Books by John Cage managed to provoke unprecedented anger in the singularly level-headed composer. After the performance, Cage allegedly banged the piano with his fist, punctuating his protestations that „the freedom in my music does not mean the freedom to be irresponsible”.
Eastman’s own compositions drew on the minimalism of Terry Riley, La Monte Young or Steve Reich, but also on the music of Morton Feldman or Petr Kotík. At the same time, he kept absorbing further impulses from popular music or jazz, which he actively played.
Eastman seemed to be dogged by bad luck. Despite an impressive number of concerts, he never saw his music released on records during his lifetime. Since 1983, a combination of factors including drugs and alcohol increasingly aggravated his situation, ultimately driving the once-successful musician to homelessness. He broke off contact with most of his music colleagues; when he died in 1990, none of them knew, and it took eight months for a newspaper obituary to be published. The majority of Eastman’s scores and recordings also disappeared during the last years of his life and only began to be re-discovered and published in the new millennium.

Matěj Kratochvíl

This engagement is supported by Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation through USArtists International in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.