The, newly GRAMMY-nominated, performance of Stay On It from the second installation of Wild Up's Julius Eastman Anthology.
Julius Eastman Vol. 2: Joy Boy is the second record in our multi-volume anthology celebrating Eastman, the late composer whose amalgamated musical vision was repeatedly dismissed during its day, but is now being unearthed to critical acclaim.
Contained in this volume, new interpretations of Eastman’s Buddha, Touch Him When, Joy Boy, and Stay On It. We endeavor here to delve deep into Eastman’s oeuvre, as we explore his inimitable compositions and idiosyncratic ways of communicating musical ideas.
More than anything, Joy Boy finds Wild Up reveling in the freedom afforded by Eastman’s work. Whether it’s our guitarist Jiji veering from placid minimalism to metallic drones across two radically different versions of Eastman’s Touch Him When or the whole band’s ebulliently discordant performance of Joy Boy there’s a palpable sense of possibility throughout Volume 2. Our goal here: we want listeners to find themselves in these pieces. And in their multiple iterations. We want this work to be quintessentially queer. Every moment full of choice.
Eastman was young, gay, and Black at a time when it was even more difficult to be young, gay, and Black. He swerved through academia, discos, Europe, Carnegie Hall, and the downtown experimental music scene. And in 1990, at age 49, Eastman died in Buffalo, New York, less than a decade after the New York City Sheriff’s Department threw most of his scores, belongings, and ephemera into the East Village snow. In our unique approaches to Eastman’s work, we’re pushing ourselves to work in dialogue with the composer’s own creative impulses; channeling his individualistic spirit, augmenting the pieces with our ideas and concepts, and trying to stay true.
The recorded performances reflects a blend of strict adherence to Eastman’s specific instructions with an embrace of individual and collective decision-making within the ensemble, a continuous three-way conversation between Eastman, our individual members, and the group as a whole.
This album represents a departure for New Amsterdam Records, which until this point has exclusively released new music by active, living composers. Eastman is a special case, a composer whose music shines like a retroactive beacon to today’s musical creators. Any term used to characterize today’s musical landscape — “genre fluid” or the like — was anticipated by Eastman decades before; yet he was punished for being ahead of his time, both in the treatment of his music and, tragically, his person. Eastman’s music flowed freely from — and through — his myriad influences, and was terribly served by the musical infrastructure of his day. (At the time of his death, it took some eight months for a newspaper — any newspaper — to run his obituary). It makes sense, then, for Femenine to arrive on New Amsterdam Records — a sort of loving backwards embrace of a musical forefather to 21st century composers.
Eastman sometimes gifted copies of his musical scores. Now, over three decades since his death, his work is being regifted by those whose lives he touched. For us, to play Eastman’s music is to feel we are in, of, and visiting his world at the same time. Though the band worked with scrupulous care to realize this project, part of the joy of performing it is accepting that Julius Eastman’s precise intentions for these elusive scores will always remain something of a mystery — just a little out of reach. Still, in the frenzied ecstasy of performing his work, we feel a little more alive, a little more connected, a little more free, and by embarking on this anthology, we endeavor to carry this freedom forward.