This is the première release of Julius Eastman’s Femenine, for chamber ensemble. It is also the work’s only known recording, documenting a 1974 performance by the S.E.M. Ensemble (with the composer on piano) which has lain unheard for decades.
The music of Julius Eastman (1940-90) is enjoying an on-going period of rediscovery. Known best in the past for his work with figures like Peter Maxwell Davies, Arthur Russell and Meredith Monk, today his own formidable compositions draw increasing admiration.
Joyous, insistent, and immersive, Femenine bathes the listener in surges of tonal colour from intertwining winds, piano, violin, pitched percussion, synthesizer and – uniquely – the composer’s own invention of mechanised sleigh bells, which provide the 72-minute piece with its characteristic pulse.
Illuminating sleeve notes are provided by composer and author Mary Jane Leach, who is co-editor of Gay Guerrilla, the recently released collection of essays on Eastman’s life and music.
Recorded by Steve Cellum – co-producer of Arthur Russell’s World of Echo – and mastered by Denis Blackham.
“Eastman’s stated aim with Femenine was to please listeners, saying of the piece that ‘the end sounds like the angels opening up heaven . . . should we say euphoria?’” –Mary Jane Leach