Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2020-01-22
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

MUSIC Cellist Seth Parker Woods discusses gay composer Julius Eastman
by Justin Curto
2018-04-11

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


Seth Parker Woods is on a first-name basis with Julius Eastman.

When talking with the cellist about working with the music of Eastman, the minimalist composer who died in 1990 after years of addiction, he abandons academic courtesy and refers to the composer as "Julius." It makes sense given his years close to Eastman's work, as part of a larger effort by musicians to re-establish and continue a performance practice of his progressive, experimental music.

For this year's Frequency Festival ( which took place Feb. 20-25 ), Parker Woods curated the triumphant Chicago premiere of three pieces by Eastman: the haunting "Prelude to the Holy Presence of Joan of Arc," for a solo vocalist; the thundering "Holy Presence of Joan of Arc," for 10 cellos; and the awe-inspiring "Gay Guerilla," for four players on two pianos. A packed audience at the Chicago Cultural Center's Preston Bradley Hall received the portrait concert with a standing ovation.

Parker Woods is far from done working with Eastman. Now, he's transcribing the cello quintet "That Boy" from recording, which will eventually also premiere in Chicago. He recently talked with Windy City Times to reflect on the premiere, along with Julius' life and identity.

Windy City Times: How did you first discover Julius Eastman's music?

Seth Parker Woods: Five years ago, roughly, I was sent a recording of the piece "The Holy Presence of Joan of Arc," and that was my first big introduction. I had never heard of him. I listened to the work, and I was really taken aback by the work. I don't want to say it's an infatuation, but thus started the beginnings of my exploration of who he was and the music he wrote.

WCT: How did you choose the three pieces for the Chicago premiere?

SPW: I definitely wanted to do the cello piece ["The Holy Presence of Joan of Arc"] because I thought it was such a seminal work that people needed to hear. But also I wanted to continue giving life to the prelude, which was never a concert work—it was an improvisation that he did for a live radio broadcast. Eventually we found the space: It would be there at Preston Bradley [Hall], and the almost holy acoustics that are that space. I was like, Oh, we have to do "Gay Guerilla."

That piece evolves in a majorly big way. It's almost like he takes you to church. You have the prelude to the cello piece in which he quotes the three saints who were said to have come to Joan in a time of need. Then also in the cello piece, you have the first three cello voices that open, these still represent those same three saints. And then on top of that, you get this big, beautiful Lutheran hymn that's connected into "Gay Guerilla." So it's this very spiritual being.

WCT: How do you decide how to present something like the prelude, which was never performed in concert?

SPW: We have the recording of Julius doing it, but we must be reminded that he was an amazing improviser as well. I take that recording of him as a guide essentially and coach each new performer. Even with the cello piece, he could've changed certain things each performance, but we only have an archive of one performance. So each performance, I try to change a few things in the way I'm trying to coach each group of cellists that I play with, where it still stays extremely visceral. That way it becomes a practice, but it's still unique and it's still alive.

WCT: At the show, you mentioned changing the narrative around Eastman. How should we be remembering him?

SPW: Let it really be more about the music than his demise. When we interpret Beethoven and we interpret Mozart, it's never about, "Can you hear the drunkard that he was in this music?" That doesn't become a part of the performance practice. So, why should there be a double standard for Julius Eastman? Let it really be about the genius that he was.

WCT: Why should we acknowledge Eastman's identity as a gay, Black man along with the music he created?

SPW: He was unapologetically himself, and the music he created reflected that. What he was feeling was what he was feeling, and this was how he was going to describe it. You can't ask someone to dumb down his art, because then it's like you ask them to silence themselves. I felt that's a lot of what was happening for him. So eventually he just said, "Fuck the system, fuck it all. I'm going to just be me, and I'm going to lay it on the table, and you're either going to take it or you're going to leave it." And those are the pieces: Some of it's very just direct, in your face.

WCT: What is your goal in working with Eastman's music?

SPW: I'm not saying that I'm aligning myself with Julius and who he was, but I see some parts of myself. In reading his scores and listening to interviews and listening to people's stories about him and reading about him, there's moments where I burst into tears. There's moments where I wish he was still around and I could say, "You are worthy and you are amazing and you should keep going." I always, now, even now, wonder: What would have become of him had he continued on and his life had gone a different way? In many ways, I feel like that music is still timeless. I believe he is one of those people that can change the times and whose music is changing the times, and it's my duty to keep that going. As more things keep becoming discovered, if I can do even a little part—not only by performing and helping coach new generations of performers, but also be a part of the archival team that ensures his scores and recordings are kept in the canon—then I'd do that.


facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email





Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

Chicago Musical Theatre Festival Feb. 3-20 2020-01-23 - Underscore Theatre Company is presenting its sixth annual Chicago Musical Theatre Festival—created to showcase and support the growing field of musical theatre creators ...


Gay News

NUNN ON ONE MUSIC King Princess, ruling the musical realm 2020-01-22 - Born in Brooklyn, New York and raised in the studio thanks to a recording engineer father, Mikaela Mullaney Straus eventually evolved into pop ...


Gay News

'Freedom Ride' talk, performance Jan. 29 2020-01-21 - Newberry Library is hosting a discussion and performance with Chicago Opera Theater ( COT ) involving the production Freedom Ride on Wed., Jan. ...


Gay News

GoFundMe page launched for DJ Bristol 2020-01-21 - A GoFundMe campaign has been launched to help Teri Bristol, who has been a longtime DJ at various LGBTQ venues as well as ...


Gay News

SHOWBIZ Taylor Swift, GLAAD, music festivals, CW renewals, Jake Gyllenhaal 2020-01-14 - GLAAD will honor global superstar Taylor Swift and award-winning director, producer, writer and advocate Janet Mock at the 31st Annual GLAAD Media Awards ...


Gay News

Sinfonietta's MLK Jr. tribute shows Jan. 19-20 2020-01-14 - Chicago Sinfonietta will be presenting its annual MLK Tribute Concert—celebrating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through family, equity and the ...


Gay News

City names 2020 'Year of Chicago Music' 2020-01-12 - Recently, Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events ( DCASE ) Commissioner Mark Kelly, Grammy- and Oscar-winning artist Che "Rhymefest" Smith and ...


Gay News

SHOWBIZ Best LGBTQ films, Eddie Murphy, Obama's songs, DJ retires 2020-01-07 - Advocate released its list of the 30 best LGBTQ films of the 2010s. Some on the list include Appropriate Behavior, Moonlight, The Kids ...


Gay News

MUSIC Whitney; The Joy Formidable; Roy Kinsey 2020-01-04 - Despite my predictions for a gloomy holiday season, Christmastime in Chicago turned out to be just short of blissful. With nary a ...


Gay News

SHOWBIZ Judi Dench, HIV+ musical comedy, Black LGBTQ musicians, Ryan Reynolds 2019-12-30 - Dame Judi Dench ( perhaps jokingly ) had a different take on Old Deuteronomy, her character in the panned movie Cats, Out.com noted. ...


 



Copyright © 2020 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor


 



About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.