Ensemble 0 - Julius Eastman: Femenine


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'The end sounds like the angels opening up heaven... Should we say euphoria?" This is Julius Eastman himself, speaking about his 1974 piece Femenine, a repetitively hypnotic, gently melodic and uplifting experimental composition for chamber ensemble, and a beautiful example of what he coined "organic music" - slowly evolving pieces that often flowed into a gradual disintegration.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Eastman was one of the very few African-Americans to gain recognition in the New York avant-garde music scene. Alongside Petr Kotik, he was a founding member of the S.E.M. Ensemble in 1970, and was one of the first composers to combine classical minimalism with popular music, paving the way for innovators such as Arthur Russell, whom he later befriended and collaborated with. Eastman was politically committed, a figure of queer culture, and a solar and solitary poet whose melancholy influenced his genius as well as his tragic destiny.

Invoking his work as a composer, dancer and performer with his identity as both queer and Black, Eastman would never realise the same level of success as contemporary New York minimalist composers such as John Cage, Christian Wolff, and Morton Feldman, and in the winter of 1981-82 was evicted from his apartment, resulting in him becoming homeless, and many of his scores and recordings impounded and destroyed by the police. Declared missing, and suffering from various addictions, he was found dead on the streets of Buffalo, NY in 1990, aged just 49, following years of vagrancy.

With much of his work lost, and notation of the remaining manuscripts unconventionally written, deliberately loose and open to interpretation, it would not be until the late 1990's when, headed by fellow composer and performer in New York's 1980's downtown music scene, Mary Jane Leach, those who knew and worked with Eastman began to piece together his legacy, and salvage recordings and scores.

Leach made this resource freely available on her website, and in the decades that followed, made a renewed recognition of Eastman's work possible. This release, performed by Ensemble 0, follows the discovery of a 1974 recording of 'Femenine' by the S.E.M. Ensemble.

Ensemble 0 is a "variable geometry group" formed in France in 2004 by Joël Merah, Stéphane Garin, and Sylvain Chauveau, whose line-up and instruments change according to the repertoire performed, working with many regular and invited collaborators. For this 71-minute piece, Ensemble 0 are joined by Aum Grand Ensemble including Melaine Dalibert (piano), Sophie Bernado (bassoon), Cyprien Busolini (viola), Jozef Dumoulin (Fender Rodhes, synthesizer), Céline Flamen (cello) Stéphane Garin (percussion), Ellen Giacone (voice), Jean-Brice Godet (bass clarinet), Amélie Grould (vibraphone), Alexandre Herer (electronics), Tomoko Katsura (violin), Julien Pontvianne (saxophones, orchestration) and Christian Pruvost (trumpet).


  1. Femenine (01:11:00)


  • CD housed in digipack case



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