For today’s pandemic-era occasion, PinkNoise’s founder and formidable violinist Johnna Wu has organized and mixed a synchronous performance of Julius Eastman’s 1979 Gay Guerrilla by festival musicians from wherever they happened to be: she recorded the piece with her own group in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park; others were in uptown Manhattan, in Williamstown and in Provincetown, Mass.; and Italian pianist Emanuele Arciuli was at home in Bari, the bright, deserted Adriatic beach glinting outside his studio, far below, as he isolates during this “very hard and very difficult time.”
“I have been fighting the Lord for a long, long, long, long time,” Julius Eastman said on Spinning on Air, David Garland’s radio show, in 1984, just a few years after he wrote Gay Guerrilla. He was 44. “I call this my last stage. At this point I take music as really secondary more or less. [sings] I like love better myself. At times it’s very hard to love the Lord since he’s putting you this way and putting you that way. First of all I’m homeless, I live in the world. I live like a wandering monk, not in the country but in the city more or less. Not that I’m devoid of sensuous delights. [sings] I love to love. I really just have a mantra. I just praise the Lord. Although the Lord is hard to take in his this-way-and-that-wayness. I just worship the pure essence. I don’t mess around with anything else. I think those that hear can hear it.”
He lived another five and a half years after that, homeless and unwell, increasingly socially distanced from all he’d known before. Gay Guerrilla, like his several other “bad boy pieces” with striking, provocative names, was, he said, from his (far too brief) middle period. “The reason I use ‘gay guerrilla’ [is] in hopes that I might be one if called upon to be one.”
Here’s to long, productive middle periods, and to Julius Eastman’s truncated but glorious middle period in particular.
And here's to being a gay guerrilla if called upon to be one.
My thanks to Professor David Freedberg, Barbara Faedda, Allison Jeffrey, Abigail Asher, Karime Robles, Peter Gelb, Charles Kaiser, Kelly Davis, Gundula Kreuzer, David J. Palmer, Craig Dobson, Hernan Valle, Roberto Minervini, Rich Benjamin, David McConnell, Darrell Crawford, Ramin Amir Arjomand, Sara Davis Buechner, Carrie Feiner, Issei Herr, Eric Umble, Roberta Michel, Matthew Gold, Jonathan Dawe, Nicholas Tamagna, Sidney Anderson, Alexander Scheuermann, Mari Moriarty, Mika Sasaki, John McGinty, Laura Dearman, Benjamin Grow, Nina Young and all of Ensemble Échappé, Anna Grimshaw, Emanuele Arciuli, Paul Griffiths, Beverly Brooks, Eve Glasberg, Jenny McPhee, and especially to Youssef Amin and Johnna Wu.
Black Lives Matter.
30 August 2020
The musicians performing Julius Eastman’s 1979 Gay Guerrilla, our finale, are:
PinkNoise: Johnna Wu, violin; Issei Herr, cello; Eric Umble, clarinet; Roberta Michel, flute
Ramin Amir Arjomand, keyboard
Mika Sasaki, piano (Ensemble Échappé)
Emanuele Arciuli, piano
Matthew Gold, percussion (Talea Ensemble)
Youssef Amin, keyboard
Music Director and audio engineer: Johnna Wu
Video editing: Hernan Valle
Produced by Rick Whitaker for the Italian Academy Summer Online Festival, August 2020