Staging Eastman, 2022 Centre for Audio Visual Experimentation, University of Leeds and Opera North
In 2023, working with Prof John Mowitt and Dr Scott McLaughlin I presented a multimodal investigation of the extraordinary African American composer and performer Julius Eastman (1940–90). Assisted by the amazing Dr Ed McKeon.
These events formed part of our Sadler Seminar Series Tunings of the World supported by Leeds Arts and Humanities Research Institute, University of Leeds, with further support from CEPRA and Opera North.
The Third Part of the Third Measure, film still (2017), The Otolith Group.
The Third Part of the Third Measure, 17–26.02.22
The Centre for Audio Visual Experimentation (CAVE) hosted the extraordinary sounds and images of The Otolith Group’s Third Part of the Third Measure (2017). Visitors were invited to have a conversation with the wonderful student invigilators about this powerful installation featuring the words and compositions of Julius Eastman (1940-90).
The Third Part... is a work that creates an encounter with the militant minimalism of avant-garde composer, pianist and vocalist Julius Eastman. The video installation focuses on what The Otolith Group describe as ‘an experience of watching in the key of listening’, invoking political feelings of defiance and the collective practice of movement building that participates in the global struggles against neoreactionary authoritarianism. The Third Part of the Third Measure invites viewers to attend to exemplary ecstatic aesthetics of black radicalism that Eastman himself once described as ‘full of honour, integrity and boundless courage’.
Stills courtesy of The Otolith Group, 2019
The Third Part of the Third Measure, 2017. The Otolith Group Installation at Van Abbemuseum, 2019Photo: Peter Cox
Staging Eastman Concert, 19.02.22
Elaine Mitchener and Anton Lukoszevieze lead an ensemble from the University of Leeds in a programme of musical performance celebrating the radical Black composers Julius Eastman and Ben Patterson.
The posthumous reclamation of Julius Eastman and Ben Patterson marks a vital and urgent reconsideration of the American experimental music and arts scene through the work of two of its leading Black members. The avant-garde has been misleadingly painted white - this event is part of a movement to celebrate its full coloured and musical range.
Patterson was a pioneering member of the Fluxus movement whose works insist - often playfully, gesturally and with a subversive edge - on activating sounds and silences through improvisation by teasing material forces. His music was a performance art before Performance Art was institutionalised.
Eastman was a virtuoso singer, pianist, and composer, pushing minimalism into unheard zones such as disco and a spirituality distinct from that of Pärt and Gorecki.
For this programme, at the Howard Assembly Room, Opera North, two world-class musicians celebrated for their performances of this music were our guide, leading a specially-created ensemble to present three exemplary works.
Staging Eastman Symposium, 25.02.22
This was by no means the first event of this nature, but it provided a new context and an opportunity to progress, to penetrate further and assess the direction of travel. As in astronautics this journey necessitates stages of separation, of jettison, to sustain momentum and exploration. The institutional scaffolding of the University may not be the most appropriate platform for such an inquiry, but this itself is a fundamental question that the work imposes as a point of departure.
By ‘Staging Eastman’ at the University of Leeds, we hoped to engage his legacies by pressing the question of what a university in the north of the UK – with all of its diverse communities and legacies of colonialism – might offer.
How can we respond in kind to the latest outbursts echoed in the work of contemporary artists and performers?
And what work does the canonisation of Eastman perform on his work and legacy?
The Centre for Audio Visual Experimentation (CAVE) was initiated by me in 2016, in collaboration with staff and students from across the Faculty of Art, Humanities and Cultures at the University of Leeds.
The Leeds Arts and Humanities Research Institute creates opportunities for collaborative, inclusive, interdisciplinary working for researchers at every career stage. The Sadler Seminars run for a year with activities each semester including talks, performances, debates, outreach activities, and grant-writing workshops.