Celebrating the genius of Julius Eastman

BPAC pays tribute with a talk, an exhibition of photography and scores, and performances of Eastman compositions by Amy Knoles, Buffalo Chamber Ensemble, and Buffluxus

Performance shots of Julius Eastman

Photos by Christine Rusiniak


The Scores Of A Man: A Revival Of Julius Eastman
Burchfield Penney Art Center
Friday, February 10, 2017, 5:30–9 pm

1300 Elmwood Avenue Buffalo, New York 14222  
878-6011 or www.burchfieldpenney.org


At the height of his career, he collaborated with Meredith Monk, Pierre Boulez, Lukas Foss, John Cage, and other icons of the musical avant garde, but when he died in 1990 in Millard Fillmore Hospital, Julius Eastman—and his groundbreaking compositions—were nearly forgotten. It took eight months for an obituary to appear, as most who knew the composer didn’t even realize he was dead. 


Julius Eastman grew up in Ithaca, New York. A musical prodigy in singing, piano, and ballet, he studied piano and composition at Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute, and came to Buffalo in the late sixties to participate in UB’s burgeoning new music scene. Eastman’s composition took elements from Minimalism, but added other rhythms, harmonies, and improvisational elements that put him well ahead of his time. Eastman composed some of his most groundbreaking works (though many of his compositions have since been lost) in Buffalo. He moved to New York in the late seventies and took part in the Lower East Side art scene, where, for a time, his collaborations and performances continued. Problems with substance abuse and failure to get reliable employment led to intermittent homelessness and a downward spiral throughout the eighties that culminated in his death at forty-nine.


Eastman’s work is finally enjoying a long-awaited revival, with the help of people like composer/performer Mary Ann Leach, who worked for years to collect as much of Eastman’s musical legacy as she could and helped organize CD releases of his work, including Unjust Malaise (New World Records, 2005). More recently, there have been performances and a book of essays, Gay Guerilla (2015), edited by Leach and René Levine Packer.


This month, the Burchfield Penney Art Center pays tribute to Eastman with a talk by Packer, an exhibition of photography and scores, and performances of Eastman compositions by Amy Knoles, Buffalo Chamber Ensemble, and Buffluxus. It takes place February 10, as part of BPAC’s Second Friday programming and is sure to be a revelation to those who never knew this fascinating artist.


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