This is the première release of Julius Eastman’s Femenine, for chamber ensemble. It is also the work’s only known recording, documenting a 1974 performance by the S.E.M. Ensemble (with the composer on piano) which has lain unheard for decades. The music of Julius Eastman (1940-1990) is enjoying an on-going period of rediscovery. Known best in the past for his work with figures like Peter Maxwell Davies, Arthur Russell and Meredith Monk, today his own formidable compositions draw increasing admiration. Joyous, insistent, and immersive, Femenine bathes the listener in surges of tonal colour from intertwining winds, piano, violin, pitched percussion, synthesizer and – uniquely – the composer’s own invention of mechanised sleigh bells, which provide the 72-minute piece with its characteristic pulse. Illuminating sleeve notes are provided by composer and author Mary Jane Leach, who is co-editor of Gay Guerrilla, the recently released collection of essays on Eastman’s life and music.
Unchained unites the work of two, at-first, seemingly disparate composers, Polands Tomasz Sikorski and the African-American Julius Eastman. However, both died age 49, Sikorski in 1988, Eastman in 1990, both led troubled lives that spiraled out of control, both are experiencing posthumous rediscovery and, most importantly, musically both can placed, albeit with different methodologies, in the minimalist camp. The titling of the works in Eastmans case are confronting, the music less so. Played by the Lutosawski Piano Duo (Emilia Sitarz and Bartek Wasik), Joanna Duda and Mischa Kozlowski.