22–23 September 2022
In 2020, when cultural and social life had largely moved to the internet, it was pieces like "Stay On It" by Julius Eastman that gave hope – hope that somehow things would continue, that the meaningful, intoxicating energy of music would be experienced together in person again, one day.
The American composer, pianist, singer and dancer Julius Eastman (1940-1990) became known for innovative minimalism and political provocation. Eastman was one of the first to interweave compositional techniques of minimal music with pop elements. His vision of "organic music” and his creative openness gave new impulses to the minimal musical movement.
In 1973, avant-garde ensemble Creative Associates goes on a tour of Europe with Eastman’s brand new piece in their repertoire, and in short: “Stay on It” turns the coordinates of avant-garde music on its head. It is minimal, but unashamedly groovy; it is open to improvisation, grants performers all the freedom they could need, but it isn’t jazz and never slips into the non-committal. It is open to theatrical and performative elements, but also to the poetic and lyrical. It is strict and demands maximum concentration from its performers, but releases them into playfulness. Once the musicians have gotten used to the discipline, have adopted the groove that Eastman demands of them, a vast field of new connections opens up to them, leading to sublime sonic unions.
“Players may choose to play and repeat the layered cells at their own discretion,” the playing directions for the piece read. And: “Each element (Theme, Cells) may be repeated ad lib. Cues to move to each next section may be visual, or a pre-determined musical cue.” It is clear that Eastman is writing for a collective of intelligent, cooperative, well-informed musicians. “Stay on It” is about respect, mutual support in seeking and finding, about an openness to the world, in which people strive for self-liberation and in which the boundaries between classical and pop music collapse, because they represent false hierarchies.
1973 – Eastman has a stipend at the University at Buffalo’s Center for the Creative and Performing Arts, he is taught by Morton Feldman, fostered by legendary conductor Lukas Foss, is already known as a singer and performer, and Petr Kotik and the Creative Associates finally want to put his pieces on the concert stage. And everyone knows: Julius Eastman is serious about there being a close link between political change and musical emancipation.
The premiere of ”Stay On It“, performed by an all female eight-piece ensemble took place at Cologne’s Week-End Fest in October 2021. For their two day residency at Cafe OTO the ensemble will perform another piece by the late composer (TBA).
Jorik Bergman / arrnger, conductor and flute
Johanna Klein / alto saxophone
Luise Volkmann / alto saxophone
Maripepa Contreras / oboe
Carla Köllner / trombone
Minhye Ko / mallet percussion
Chae Yeon Lee / piano
Mareike Wiening / drums