Christopher Kirubi 6 Songs (2016)
Essex Hemphill Object Lessons (1992)
M. NourbeSe Philip Meditations on the Declension of Beauty by the Girl with the Flying Cheek-bones (1989)
Julius Eastman Gay Guerilla (1979)
Christopher Kirubi He Can’t Be In Here (2016)
Essex Hemphill Now We Think (1989)
Zoe Leonard I Want A President (1992)
Arthur Russell (arr. Kerry Yong) excerpts from Tower of Meaning (1983/2016) (UK premiere)
Julius Eastman Hail Mary (1984) (world premiere)
Julius Eastman Stay On It (1973)
Apartment House: Gavin Morrison (flute), Emma Williams (flute), Gordon MacKay (violin), Anton Lukoszevieze (cello), Xenia Pestova (keyboard), Philip Thomas (piano), Simon Limbrick (percussion)
Zubin Kanga (director and piano)
Rolf Hind, Siwan Rhys, Eliza McCarthy (pianos)
Philip Thomas (piano, Hail Mary)
Christopher Kirubi (poems: Kirubi, Hemphill, Leonard, NourbeSe Philip)
For our final night, the spotlight is on Julius Eastman's role in New York’s fertile, experimental downtown scene. Relocating to New York in 1976 following his departure from University of Buffalo, Eastman became a regular at The Kitchen, which had become the hangout for the musical avant-garde from Tony Conrad to Meredith Monk.
Around this time, he connected with fellow Kitchen-ite Arthur Russell - a kindred queer spirit, a classically trained rebel-misfit who was advancing disco while composing for orchestra. Eastman was a member of Russell's collective Dinosaur L (the voice of their hit song 'Go Bang') and conducted excerpts from Russell's Satie-like ensemble work Tower of Meaning, which was originally written for a piece by Robert Wilson. Excerpts will be given a rare outing tonight by Apartment House, in a specially commissioned arrangement.
We also revisit Eastman’s provocative massed piano series with Gay Guerilla (performed by Rolf Hind, Zubin Kanga, Siwan Rhys, Eliza McCarthy), a choral fantasy whose mixture of the sacred and profane echoes the experiments of downtown filmmakers like Jack Smith. Philip Thomas and Elaine Mitchener, meanwhile, will present the world premiere of a newly unearthed work, Hail Mary (1984), that Eastman sent in a letter to the composer Rocco di Pietro.
Alongside the music of Eastman and Russell, writer and artist Christopher Kirubi will recite Kirubi's own 'He Can’t Be In Here' and '6 Songs', as well as texts by Zoe Leonard, M. NourbeSe Philip and Essex Hemphill – verses that explore race, politics, sexuality, gender and love.
Reunited with Elaine Mitchener, Apartment House end the festival with one of Eastman's most defiantly upbeat statements, Stay On It, whose attitude seems to spin directly off the dancefloor. Hailed as 'radically ahead of its time' (LA Times), it's a bold and striking attempt to integrate the language of soul and R&B into classical composition. With its gay subtexts and its semi-improvised freak-outs, it also acted as a rebuke to the clinical approach of much minimalism. Eastman and the S.E.M Ensemble toured Britain with the work in 1974, delivering one of he most 'out-there' performances in Aberdeen. 'It was musical love-making,' remembers one of the performers Jon Gibson in the LA Times.
1 Apartment House and Christopher Kirubi.
2 Philip Thomas and Elaine Mitchener
3 Apartment House and Elaine Mitchener
4 Siwan Rhys and Zubin Kanaga
All photos: Dimitri Djuric