Jace Clayton's The Julius Eastman Memorial Dinner
The Julius Eastman Memorial Dinner is an auditory repository for the sonic ideas explored in the live performance. On both, Clayton pulls acoustic and digital sounds toward each other by running the the music from each piano through a laptop, where he uses custom-built digital tools informed by his acclaimed Sufi Plug Ins project—one such tool uses the overall volume of the pianos to simultaneously adjust a drone being generated by their pitches—to create an electronic layer built entirely on the pianos’ sound. Clayton chose to focus on two of Eastman’s longest piano works for the album, “Evil Nigger” and “Gay Guerrilla”, to allow himself as much opportunity as possible to explore the sound and range of the piano, Eastman’s rhythmic and muscular writing, and the internal dynamics of each piece. The album,
Julius Eastman Memory Depot, was recorded with virtuosic pianists David Friend and Emily Manzo at New York City’s world-class Merkin Concert Hall, the pianists’ impeccable instincts gave Clayton freedom to focus on his subtle (and in some cases, dramatic) electronic explorations of the piano’s sonic possibilities. The result is two arresting, labyrinthine new songs created by the two pianos and their own electrified and transformed versions that extend Eastman’s vision for multiple pianos into a truly original type of listening experience.
Clayton’s sole purely original composition on the album,”Callback from the American Society of Eastman Supporters”, acts as a bridge between the album and the live performance, and portrays how the precariousness of Eastman’s work life echoes and resonates with the precariousness of jobs nowadays more than ever. Inspired by the way in which Eastman’s song titles often used humor and confrontation to demonstrate that the world of classical music and the world-we-live-in are intermingled and inseparable, Sufi vocalist Arooj Aftab begins the coda in dry corporate-speak then expands the song with spiritual depth, adding intensity to the piano music while and simultaneously welcoming in the world. The Julius Eastman Memory Depot proposes a celebration of music-in-motion, of the fragile and the strong and those who live in the outskirts, of that which for various reasons resists easy historicization but deserves to be remembered, reinvented, and set alight anew.