Alex Ross on Julius Eastman

At The New Yorker, Alex Ross has an excellent piece on the resurgence of interest in Julius Eastman.

The major revelation, though, has been the brazen and brilliant music of Julius Eastman, who was all but forgotten at century’s end. Eastman found a degree of fame in the nineteen-seventies and early eighties, mainly as a singer: he performed the uproarious role of George III in Peter Maxwell Davies’s “Eight Songs for a Mad King,” in the company of Pierre Boulez, and toured with Meredith Monk. He achieved more limited notoriety for works that defiantly affirmed his identity as an African-American and as a gay man. (One was called “Nigger Faggot.”) As the eighties went on, he slipped from view, his behavior increasingly erratic. When he died, in 1990, at the age of forty-nine, months passed before Gann broke the news, in the Village Voice.

I hadn’t come across Eastman’s name before, but I’ve spent some time recently listening to his work. It’s confrontational minimalism, political and in-your-face; not content to drift into the background.