I was certain that we'd never fit 14 musicians — playing winds, strings, piano, bass and even a vibraphone — behind Bob Boilen's desk. But the members of the new music ensemble Wild Up, with their can-do attitude and their effervescent artistic director Christopher Rountree, were completely amenable to being shoved and squeezed and finally fanned out just right in front of our cameras and microphones.
They traveled all the way from California to play a single piece by a composer to whom Rountree and his musicians have devoted their lives for the past few years. Wild Up has just released its third album of music by Julius Eastman in a projected seven-volume series. Eastman was proudly Black and proudly gay, revered in his short heyday of the 1970s and early '80s, but tragically misunderstood and nearly forgotten by the time of his death in 1990, alone in a Buffalo, N.Y. hospital at age 49.
Today, as Eastman's music is being brought into the spotlight by Wild Up and others, he's celebrated as an experimental visionary who brandished his own provocative way of getting the listener to think about sound and context.
For this performance, the band plays a 15-minute arrangement of a longer piece from 1973 called Stay On It. The music is nothing less than an exuberant house party unto itself, infectious and revelatory.
To perform Eastman's works, Rountree says, can be transformational.
"They're the kind of pieces you breathe in as a musician, and they do their work on you," he explains. "And when you breathe them out again, you're breathing not only the piece but also a different version of yourself."
Stay On It
Christopher Rountree: artistic director, conductor
Richard Valitutto: piano
Tariq Al-Sabir: voice
Shelley Washington: voice
Jodie Landau: voice, percussion
Sidney Hopson: percussion
Darian Donovan Thomas: violin, electronics
Andrew Tholl: violin
Adrianne Pope: violin
Mona Tian: viola
Derek Stein: cello
Marlon Martinez: electric bass
Patrick Shiroishi: alto saxophone
M.A. Tiesenga: baritone saxophone
Isabel Lepanto Gleicher: flute
TINY DESK TEAM
Producer: Tom Huizenga
Director/Editor: Maia Stern
Audio Engineer: Neil Tevault
Creative Director: Bob Boilen
Series Producer: Bobby Carter
Videographers: Maia Stern, Kara Frame, Joshua Bryant, Sofia Seidel
Audio Assistant: Josephine Nyouani
Production Assistant: Ashley Pointer
Photographer: Catie Dull
Tiny Desk Team: Suraya Mohamed, Josh Rogosin, Jill Britton, Marissa Lorusso, Hazel Cills
VP, Visuals and Music: Keith Jenkins
Senior VP, Programming: Anya Grundmann
Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.
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