Julius Eastman: Crazy Evil Gay

Julius Eastman perfected his multifarious minimalism in three works of the late 1970s: Crazy NiggerEvil Nigger, and Gay Guerrilla. Each work is scored for multiple instruments of the same kind. Presented at The Knockdown Center, the concert features Evil Nigger and Crazy Nigger performed as a piano quartet by Joseph KuberaDynasty BattlesMichelle CannAdam Tendler as well as Gay Guerilla in a version for a large electric guitar ensemble scored by Dustin Hurt. 


Julius Eastman: Evil nigger (1979)

Joseph Kubera, Dynasty Battles, Michelle Cann, Adam Tendler - pianos

Julius Eastman: gay guerrilla* (1979)

*version for 14 electric guitars by Dustin Hurt

Julius Eastman: crazy nigger (1979)

Joseph Kubera, Dynasty Battles, Michelle Cann, Adam Tendler - pianos

What I mean by niggers is, that thing which is fundamental; that person or thing that attains to a basicness or a fundamentalness, and eschews that which is superficial, or, could we say, elegant.
— Julius Eastman

Program Notes:

On January 16, 1980, renegade composer/singer/pianist Julius Eastman gave a concert of his works at Northwestern University, in Evanston, Illinois. He had been invited by faculty composer Peter Gena, who, like Eastman, had been a member of the Creative Associates at SUNY Buffalo (a performance group run by composers Lukas Foss and Morton Feldman). Using Northwestern student pianists, Eastman premiered three works for four pianos, with incendiary titles: Crazy NiggerEvil Nigger, and Gay Guerilla. In response to a protest by the campus African-American student organization, the titles were left off the program, and in a pre-concert talk Eastman explained, in his eloquent deep bass, that he used the offensive word to honor the African-American’s role in American history: “What I mean by niggers is, that thing which is fundamental; that person or thing that attains [sic] to a basicness or a fundamentalness, and eschews that which is superficial, or, could we say, elegant.... There are 99 names of Allah, and there are 52 niggers.”

Eastman went on to explain that the three pieces were written using a concept he called “organic form,” related to the additive process of minimalist music, which was still fairly new: “That is to say, the third part of any part has to contain all of the information of the first two parts, and then go on from there… They’re not exactly perfect yet. There’s an attmept to make every section contain all the information of the previous sections, or else, taking out information at a gradual and logical rate.” By “not exactly perfect yet” Eastman seemed to mean that the process was not strict, but intuitively shaped. Most often, new material is added one pitch or motive at a time, though subtractions of material are more abrupt.

The scores to these three works are rather sketchily notated, and considerable interpretation is required on the performers’ part. Crazy Nigger, at 54 minutes the longest of the three pieces by far, is also the most abstract; for much of the piece it is also the most clearly notated, though toward the end it devolves into mere pitch names as Eastman pursues a sound-process that resists clear definition. The piece is largely a long continuum of repeated notes, starting on a Bb, then with an Ab-A-Bb motive thrown in, then an alternating C-Bb, next a D-Eb, then an E alternating with silences, and so on, the pitch combinations changing in leisurely periods of 90 seconds each. Twelve minutes into the piece the texture thins down to just the notes A and B, and a delicate melody spreads downward through the ensemble: B-A-F#-E-D-A-B. Following a brief silence, the repeating Bb returns, and the melody builds back up a half-step lower. The pitches begin to spread out again until all twelve are being repeated at once; perhaps only Eastman, in that era, could use minimalist processes to accumulate into into dense atonality. Here Eastman switches from noteheads to a pitch-name notation with numbers whose intent is particularly difficult to decipher without the recording. The music heads into the bass register with some slow octave C#s, and for the last eight minutes a new continuum is built up as a 16-note overtone series on C# (or the equal-tempered approximation thereof), each note in the series being repeated at a tempo proportional to its pitch. In the premiere performance, a group of extra students quietly walked onstage to play all the notes necessary for this final climax.

Program notes by Kyle Gann

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photo by Ben Tran

photo by Ben Tran

DYNASTY BATTLES began studying classical piano at Settlement Music School with Eileen Liebowitz, a protégée of the legendary Natalie Hinderas.
Mr. Battles, a recipient of the Esther Boyer Scholarship, went on to study with Harvey Wedeen at Temple University from which he graduated cum laude. Mr. Battles was
a featured performer and honoree at
the 2010 90th Anniversary Celebration sponsored by
the W. Russell Johnson Music Guild. It was at that event that Curtis Institute of Music
graduate Blanche
Burton-Lyles stated, “Dynasty will be among the major and outstanding concert pianists of the world."


has worked closely with
such legendary composers as John Cage, Morton Feldman, La Monte Young, and Robert Ashley. He toured widely with the Cunningham Dance Company, and
he has made definitive recordings of Cage’s Music of Changes and Concert for Piano and Orchestra. Mr. Kubera is a core member of S.E.M. Ensemble, and has performed with a wide range of New York ensembles and orchestras.
He has recorded for the Wergo, Albany, New Albion, New World, Lovely Music, O.O. Discs, Mutable Music, Cold Blue, and Opus One labels. [WEB]

Photo by Greg Parkinson

Photo by Greg Parkinson

is a New York based pianist who has been called “...exuberantly expressive..”  
by the LA Times and an “intrepid...
maverick pianist” by The New Yorker. Tendler has performed solo recitals in all fifty
United States, including
artistic landmarks like New York’s Symphony Space, The Maverick Concert Hall, The Fisher Center at Bard College, The Rubin Museum, Rothko Chapel and James Turrell’s Skyspace in Sarasota Florida, its first musical performer. Tendler’s memoir, 88x50, was a 2014 Kirkus Indie Book of the Month and Lambda Literary Award Nominee. [WEB]

MICHELLE CANN, hailed as a “colorist...who can sweep the listener off
his or her feet,” started the piano at
age 7 and since
then has gone
on to receive
top prizes in state, national, and international competitions including the International Russian
Piano Music
the Blount Young Artists National Competition, and most recentlythe 2014 Wideman International Piano Competition. Michelle received her BM and MM degrees from the Cleveland Institute of Music and went on to receive an Artist Diploma degree from the Curtis Institute of Music. Michelle currently resides in Philadelphia, PA, and maintains an active schedule of teaching and performing. [WEB]


Sun, Jan 28th, 2018 at 4pm and 6pm

Tickets: $25 General/$20 Members 


The Knockdown Center
52-19 Flushing Ave
Maspeth, NY 11378