String Orchestra of Brooklyn with Adam Tendler: JULIUS EASTMAN & DEVONTÉ HYNES

Little Island presents NYC FREE
4 weeks. 460 artists. 160 performances.
Music, Dance, Poetry, Comedy, and more!
August 11 – September 5, 2021

FRIDAY, AUGUST 13 at 7:30 PM


Eli Spindel - conductor
Adam Tendler - piano
Members of String Orchestra of Brooklyn

Members of the critically acclaimed String Orchestra of Brooklyn and pianist Adam Tendler join forces to perform Julius Eastman’s Gay Guerilla. This seminal piece comes from a series of pulse-based works with political titles that Eastman composed between 1979--80. Musically quite unlike any of Eastman’s work before or after, they are examples of what he called “organic music,” with material amassing and transforming, swirling and driving, and constantly in flux. Gay Guerrilla will be presented alongside the Little Island commission for piano and strings, Happenings, composed by Grammy Award nominated multi-instrumentalist Devonté Hynes.

“Now the reason I use Gay Guerrilla — G U E R R I L L A, that one — is because these names — let me put a little subsystem here — these names: either I glorify them or they glorify me. And in the case of guerrilla: that glorifies gay — that is to say, there aren’t many gay guerrillas. I don’t feel that ‘gaydom’ has — does have — that strength, so therefore, I use that word in the hopes that they will. You see, I feel that — at this point, I don’t feel that gay guerrillas can really match with ‘Afghani’ guerrillas or ‘PLO’ guerrillas, but let us hope in the future that they might, you see. That’s why I use that word guerrilla: it means a guerrilla is someone who is, in any case, sacrificing his life for a point of view. And, you know, if there is a cause — and if it is a great cause — those who belong to that cause will sacrifice their blood, because, without blood, there is no cause. So, therefore, that is the reason that I use gay guerrilla, in hopes that I might be one, if called upon to be one.” –– Julius Eastman, January 1980

It’s difficult lately to write anything about Julius Eastman (1940-1990) that doesn’t invite scrutiny, but as a frequent performer of his work, I’ve grown uncomfortably accustomed to the Julius Eastman elevator speech. Here’s what I say: “Julius Eastman was a Black, gay, politically radical composer who was instrumental to the new music scene throughout the 70s and 80s—he worked with a range of artists including Meredith Monk, Morton Feldman, Pierre Boulez, Arthur Russell, and Lukas Foss—but who died prematurely and in relative obscurity after a period of homelessness, with many of his scores lost.” I cringe, because there’s so much more to say, and so much more to clarify. Instead, I typically refer people to Eastman’s actually-good Wikipedia page, an eloquent Hilton Als piece in the New Yorker, the Unjust Malaise album of original recordings, and the excellent book, Gay Guerrilla, edited by Renee Levine Packer and Mary Jane Leach, whose efforts arguably rescued Eastman’s work from oblivion.

To be clear, I’m uncomfortable framing Eastman's bio by his race, sexuality and the ‘radical’ nature of his character and work, however he himself was prone and seemingly happy to lump it all together into one psycho-spiritual-sexual entity. He told the Buffalo News in 1976, “What I am trying to achieve is to be what I am to the fullest—Black to the fullest, a musician to the fullest, and a homosexual to the fullest.” That “to the fullest”-ness is what imbued Eastman’s life, both as a performer and composer, with a kind of running narrative on the joys, complexities and perils of embracing, reclaiming and using race, sexuality and gender as fuel for art. On planet Eastman, collaborators (which is to say, performers) become activists by proxy, and must unapologetically rise to these fullest, if fluid, demands, loosening our tight grip on what we perceive as our identity onstage, which inevitably interrogates how we frame our identity offstage. –– Adam Tendler

Piano by Steinway & Sons

Curated by Adam Tendler: Internationally recognized interpreter of living, modern and classical composers, Adam Tendler presents an astonishing array of multidimensional projects, from classical to experimental to pop, that delight and challenge the music aficionado and novice alike. Extending his breadth as a performer and composer into the curatorial sphere, Tendler offers the opportunity to hear the acclaimed PUBLIQuartet, NYC children performing John Cage, live DJ sets, piano works by Philip Glass, a new composition by Devonté Hynes, and a landmark work of musical activism by Julius Eastman.

“I am eternally interested in how I can add to a conversation, playing existing work in new ways, and introducing people to some of my all time favorite music. It’s fun to share these passions with audiences and I’m interested in what people take with them and remember after they leave the park.” — Adam Tendler

NYC FREE projects curated by Adam Tendler:

John Cage’s 4’ 33”
Wednesday, August 11 at 11AM, 11:30AM, 12PM, 12:30PM, and 1PM in The Glade

Jenny Lin & Adam Tendler: Philip Glass Mixtape
Friday, August 13 at 9:15 PM in The Amph, Get Tickets!

DJ Eli Escobar
Wednesday, August 11 at 9:00 PM in The Play Ground

More about the artists:

String Orchestra of Brooklyn:

Adam Tendler:

Devonté Hynes: