Julius Eastman:
Let Sonorities Ring

Julius Eastman: Let Sonorities Ring is a one-year research project focusing on the life and works of the Afro-American composer, vocalist and performer Julius Eastman (1940–1990) that culminates in an exhibition and a “Julius Eastman Festschrift.”

Between 17th to 26th of March 2017, the space ofSAVVY Contemporary is a documentation centre dedicated to the oeuvre of Julius Eastman (1940–1990). Archival material including original recordings, video footage and scores are made available to the public. Live Acts by Jace Clayton, Mwangi Hutter and Hassan Khan, contribute beats and sounds to the program, widening and imaginatively deepening the perspective on Eastman’s work. Julius Eastman: Let Sonorities Ring is the first chapter in a one-year research project focusing on the life and works of the Afro-American composer, vocalist and performer that will culminate in an exhibition and a “Julius Eastman Festschrift.”

For a political artist, which I feel is really any artist who makes a point of being aware of the extensions of control within themselves and their practice, the gesture of resistance has to be put into question again and again, most definitely beyond the easily recuperable referential relativisms that pervade our postmodern moment...

Sam Shalaby. Liner Notes, in Dreams and Music: Hassan Khan. Revolver Press, 2016

With these words, composer and musician Sam Shalabi introduces the musical work of Hassan Khan but it is precisely this political and aural liminal space that all artists in this project inhabit. Artists and musicians who speak or respond to Julius Eastman’s practice, with new or old works, by focusing on his music, vocal experiments and performances more than on his biographical story. Khan’s practice spans the visual arts, writing and music, in a tentacular approach where every aspect informs the other. In the music scene through different guises since the early 90s, and a musical autodidact, Khan’s electro-acoustic compositions and live performances defy classifications and have been extremely diverse in structure, in references and in narrative. In some of his pieces, pop culture and the history of music and popular movements in Egypt, the city of Cairo and its soundscapes, can certainly be considered important influences. In one of his latest pieces for example, titled Taraban (2014), Khan takes two early twentieth century Egyptian songs by Youssef El Manialawy as a point of departure, working with classical Arabic melodic patterns and instruments such as the Oud, the Qanoun, and the Riqq, but completely reformulating their sounds. In the context ofJulius Eastman: Let Sonorities Ring Khan will present Live Ammunition! Music for Clapping, String Quartet and Live Electronics (2013), a 40 minutes piece in which different layers of string quartets and clapping patterns are used as “instruments” to produce a musical horizon. One in which structure regulates the emotional engagement with the piece, one that attracts and distances the audience at different times. A piece that is interested in suspension, and a dramatic yet subtle dialogue between its contrasting parts as well as with the listening audience. This is how the artist himself loosely defines the work: “on the shores of a new ocean–there are no resolutions only undercurrents and potential.”

Also Jace Clayton moves between different contexts, working as an artist, a musician, a software designer and a DJ. Through his work as DJ/rupture, Clayton has travelled half of the world and has engaged in many different collaborations, ranging from Norah Jones to the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra via low budget touring throughout Colombia. Clayton’s work, as in his own words, focuses on how “sound, memory, and public space interact, with an emphasis on low-income communities and the global South.” He has an interest in how sound creates social meaning and in how to manufacture new electronic devices for producing music that defy western conceptions of sound. Eastman’s work has been an important reference for Clayton, who produced one of the earliest pieces dedicated to his oeuvre: the Julius Eastman Memorial Dinner, a 70-minute performance piece for grand pianos, live electronics, and voice. ForJulius Eastman: Let Sonorities Ring Clayton will present a new piece ALLGEGENWART (OMNIPRESENCE document 1) a new choral work written in response to harsh night-time police lighting in his Harlem neighbourhood. Understanding the bright lights as a manifestation of institutional hostility towards blackness, the choir will sing to them, creating a space of contemplation that engages with the history of choral music as sacred praise to a higher power and simultaneously re-purposes the carceral infrastructure. For ALLGEGENWART, Berlin’s PHØNIX16 ensemble performs an excerpt from OMNIPRESENCE as a public concert, the recording of which Clayton will then rework into an hour-long radiophonic composition for voice and electronics.

Performers of the PHØNIX16’s ensemble are: Sirje Aleksandra Viise (soprano), Eva Zwedberg (soprano), Vanessa Chartrand-Rodrigue (mezzo), Michael Taylor (countertenor), Magnús Hallur Jónsson (tenor), and Oskar Koziołek Goetz (baritone).

Mwangi Hutter is an artist duo made up of Ingrid Mwangi and Robert Hutter. Since 2005, the two have worked side by side on numerous projects as a merged artistic entity. Working with video, sound, photography, installation, sculpture, painting and performance, they use themselves as the sounding board to reflect on changing societal realities, creating an aesthetics of self-knowledge and interrelationship. Ingrid Mwangi’s voice and body often appears in their performances. In works like Drastic (2014) for example the sole voice of Ingrid Mwangi performs a rich array of uncanny tonalities, that gradually span from emotional moments of laughter and despair to quasi-mimicry of natural and animal sounds, creating a fervent composition. ForJulius Eastman: Let Sonorities Ring Mwangi Hutter will present Yes, Own Axis a work thought as an affirmation of an artist’s inherent creativity and potential. Circular motion, simplicity and repetition are determining factors of the action of the piece, which over time can gain a mesmerizing quality. The subject is to be completely immersed in the present moment and to draw from inspiration, memory and inner knowledge, allowing voice to be expressed. The object is to rise above opinion and concepts of what is acceptable. Through letting go of the narrative and illustrative meaning, a more profound comprehension can be gained about the nature of creation and the impact societal expectations can have on an individual seeking to be free.

Performance by Hassan Khan | Photo: Camille Blake
Performance by Hassan Khan | Photo: Camille Blake
Performance by Hassan Khan | Photo: Camille Blake
Performance by Hassan Khan | Photo: Camille Blake
Performance by Hassan Khan | Photo: Camille Blake
Performance by Hassan Khan | Photo: Camille Blake
Performance by Hassan Khan | Photo: Matthew Colodny
Performance by Hassan Khan | Photo: Matthew Colodny
Performance by Jace Clayton and PHØNIX16 | Photo: Camille Blake
Performance by Jace Clayton and PHØNIX16 | Photo: Camille Blake
Performance by Jace Clayton and PHØNIX16 | Photo: Camille Blake
Performance by Jace Clayton and PHØNIX16 | Photo: Camille Blake
Performance by Jace Clayton and PHØNIX16 | Photo: Camille Blake
Performance by Jace Clayton and PHØNIX16 | Photo: Camille Blake
Exhibition | Photo: Matthew Colodny
Exhibition | Photo: Matthew Colodny
Exhibition | Photo: SAVVY Contemporary
Exhibition | Photo: SAVVY Contemporary
Exhibition | Photo: SAVVY Contemporary
Exhibition | Photo: SAVVY Contemporary
Exhibition | Photo: Matthew Colodny
Exhibition | Photo: Matthew Colodny
Exhibition | Photo: SAVVY Contemporary
Exhibition | Photo: SAVVY Contemporary
Exhibition | Photo: SAVVY Contemporary
Exhibition | Photo: SAVVY Contemporary
Exhibition | Photo: SAVVY Contemporary
Exhibition | Photo: SAVVY Contemporary
Exhibition | Photo: SAVVY Contemporary
Exhibition | Photo: SAVVY Contemporary
Exhibition | Photo: SAVVY Contemporary
Exhibition | Photo: SAVVY Contemporary
Exhibition | Photo: SAVVY Contemporary
Exhibition | Photo: SAVVY Contemporary
Exhibition | Photo: SAVVY Contemporary
Exhibition | Photo: SAVVY Contemporary
Exhibition | Photo: SAVVY Contemporary
Exhibition | Photo: SAVVY Contemporary
Exhibition | Photo: SAVVY Contemporary
Exhibition | Photo: SAVVY Contemporary
Exhibition | Photo: SAVVY Contemporary
Exhibition | Photo: SAVVY Contemporary