Light streams through the darkness,
Opening the caves
Light cannot shine where no light is
Truth is light and darkness
More light more light
More light more light
Light is not darkness

Julius Eastman. Notes in the score for The Moon’s Silent Modulation (1970)

WE HAVE DELIVERED OURSELVES FROM THE TONAL – Of, with, towards, on Julius Eastman is an exhibition, a program of performances, concerts and lectures as well as an upcoming publication that deliberate around concepts beyond the predominantly Western musicological format of the tonal or harmonic. The project looks at the work of the African American composer, musician and performer Julius Eastman beyond the framework of what is today understood as minimalist music, within a larger, always gross and ever-growing understanding of it—i.e. conceptually and geo-contextually. Together with musicians, visual artists, researchers and archivers we aim to explore a non-linear genealogy of Eastman’s practice and his cultural, political and social weight while situating his work within a broader rhizomatic relation of musical epistemologies and practices.


A deep listening of Eastman, and a proper look at his scores, reveal a quest to defy the conventionality of music and strive towards the atonal. It is known that Western classical tradition is based on the tonal. By trying to complicate, deny or expatiate on the notions of the harmonic, tonal hierarchy, the triadic, or even the tonal centre, Eastman’s compositions explore strategies and technologies of attaining the atonal, e.g. through his serial repetitions. One might be tempted to see Eastman in the legacy of Bartok, Schoenberg, Berg and others, but here too, it is worth shifting the geography of minimal tendencies and minimalism in music. It is worth listening and reading Eastman’s music within the scope of what Oluwaseyi Kehinde describes as the application of chromatic forms such as polytonality, atonality, dissonance as the fulcrum in analysing some elements of African music such as melody, harmony, instruments and instrumentation. Though Eastman should not be reduced to the dichotomy of tonality versus atonality, there is still the need to research how Eastman tries to shed light into tonality, which is deeply embedded in Western civilisation.

For the project, new substantial artworks and musical pieces have been commissioned and will be world-premiered in Berlin. These include a filmic work and performance by Annika Kahrs; a musical composition and a sculptural work by Hassan Khan; a sound installation by Pungwe (Robert Machiri and Memory Biwa); and an installation of minimalist drawings by Barthélémy Toguo. The exhibition also includes drawings by Malak Helmy, a film by the Otolith Group (Anjalika Sagar, Kodwo Eshun), paintings by Paolo Bottarelli and Tanka Fonta as well as a score by Raven Chacon.


A project conceived by Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung, Antonia Alampi and Berno Odo Polzer, commissioned and produced by  SAVVY Contemporary, co-produced by MaerzMusik – Festival for Time Issues. 

MaerzMusik – Festival for Time Issues  will take place from 16.–25.03.2018 at Haus der Berliner Festspiele.

The project is funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation.
Hassan Khan´s pieces have been realized thanks to the generous support of Galerie Chantal Carousel.

Photo credit (Teaser images): Chris Rusiniak