In 2016, frozen reeds published the première release of Julius Eastman’s Femenine, for chamber ensemble. Laying unheard for decades prior, the release documented a 1974 performance by the S.E.M. Ensemble with the composer himself on piano.
It is now available on vinyl for the first time, in a revelatory new remaster by Jim O’Rourke.
The first release of Femenine served as the catalyst that propelled Eastman’s music into the mainstream. Articles on Eastman’s music and its immediate disruptive impact on the classical canon began to appear in every major news organ in the English-speaking world and beyond. His music began to be programmed in major concerts and festivals, several of these entirely themed around his life and work. New recordings sprang up from a fresh generation of musicians engaging with his ideas and interpreting them for a modern audience hungry to hear more.
But the raw, emotionally cascading spirit of the original performance continues to inspire listeners. Joyous, insistent, and immersive, Femenine bathes the listener in surges of tonal colour from intertwining winds, piano, violin, pitched percussion, synthesizer and – uniquely – the composer’s own invention of mechanised sleigh bells, which provide the 72-minute piece with its characteristic pulse.
Femenine was recorded live by Steve Cellum – co-producer of Arthur Russell’s World of Echo – and the new vinyl reissue has been remastered from the original high-definition tape transfer by Jim O’Rourke at his Steamroom studio in the Japanese mountains.
Illuminating sleeve notes are provided by composer and author Mary Jane Leach, key figure of the Eastman revival and co-editor of the Gay Guerrilla collection of essays on his life and music.