Julius Eastman - Crazy N*gger LP
It's little wonder that Julius Eastman (who died in 1990 under unexplained circumstances) has remained the supreme underground composer. He was Afro-American and gay, a composer who rocked the cerebral world of process music with his explosions of free improvisation. Crazy N*gger is the first time any of Eastman's music has been available on vinyl and is one of three extended pieces for four pianos, along with Gay Guerrilla / Evil N*gger, written and performed around 1980. All three works generate their epic soundscapes through adamantly restated patterns and interlocking canons, not fragmenting, but preaching urgent truths. To quote the brilliant Mary Jane Leach liners: "He wrote what can be categorized as minimal music, but also wrote 'post-minimal' music – before minimal music was fully established." His pieces straddle both styles of minimal music; rhythmic/pulse-driven music (Steve Reich and Philip Glass) and spectral drone music (La Monte Young and Phill Niblock). There is a flexibility that lends an organic feel to his music, a muscularity missing in a lot of other music from that time; with the re-emergence of this powerful music, a missing gap in the history of contemporary music has been filled.
Not released commercially upon their recording, they were instead shared on cassettes, copied and passed from one admirer to another. Unlike today's instant access to music, at that time each new copy represented a time commitment, since it took as long to copy as its playing time, while also removing itself further from the original recording with a resultant deterioration in sound quality. The three pieces occupy a high point in Eastman's oeuvre, the culmination of his mature style. Crazy N*gger is a sprawling sonic study, the last section exploring canonic form both harmonically and rhythmically, using the same process as James Tenney's Spectral Canon, but notated in a more intuitive way.
Offering extensive liner notes by Leach and Bradford Bailey, this is a seminal work by one of the most important, but neglected, American composers of the 1970s and '80s, returning to the light once more. Not only is Crazy N*gger an entire rethinking of minimalism, but it ferociously blows the doors of what classical music can be seen to be. Mastering by Giuseppe Ielasi. Includes printed inner sleeve housing a Nagaoka anti-static record sleeve, plus obi-style original insert in a fold-out outer sleeve. 180 gram, color vinyl. Edition of 300.