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Julius Eastman
Frozen Reeds
Catalogue Number
Release Date
June 2, 2023

The 21st century has witnessed a much needed revival of late pioneering composer Julius Eastman’s canon, as his music and life story resurface in the modern day. The search for his lost scores began with Mary Jane Leach, who compiled the first ever release of Eastman’s works in 2005 on Unjust Malaise, but it wasn’t until 2016 when Finnish label Frozen Reeds uncovered a 1974 performance of Femenine that Julius Eastman’s legacy would truly blossom into the mainstream.

Femenine is a gargantuan piece, one of Eastman’s longest, featuring his own piano playing as part of the S.E.M. Ensemble. A murmuring audience enters to a backdrop of rustling “mechanised” sleigh bells, stray piano and brass notes test the waters, then everyone goes hush as the mesmerising, swooping and soaring arrangements fill the room. Vibraphone trills repeatedly while soft, warm piano chords and strings breeze in on winds of bright, whistling flutes. The whole composition is bathed in an angelic light, every performer working in harmony to break the clouds and open up the heavens.

As the instruments roll, stutter, and vibrate in waves of orchestral clockwork, fluttering rivers of synthesiser melodies sprout under monolithic, bassy chords, while piano walks gracefully through the scales. In the performance’s final movements, pneumatic stabs of sound give way to a dawn chorus of tweeting brass and chirruping winds, showcasing Eastman’s experimental ideas in a most elegant state.

It’s hard to think that Julius Eastman’s works were almost lost to time, as the joyous expressions of Femenine alone have made a remarkable stamp on music history and the countless artists inspired by it.

  • 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.
  • Performed by the S.E.M. Ensemble
  • Recorded by Steve Cellum
  • Tape transferred by Garry Rindfuss
  • With liner notes and then some by Mary Jane Leach
  • Mastered by Jim O'Rourke at Steamroom
  • Design by Antoine Verhaverbek
  • Cover by Andrew Roth: »Untitled (Julius Eastman)«, c.1980.

Track List

  1. Femenine (1974) 72' 34''

Julius Eastman

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