Julius Eastman

September 29th 2023

BASE Milano – Via Bergognone, 34 Milan

8.45 p.m.


Giovanni Mancuso and Padua University Art Centre Ensemble
Giovanni Mancuso, conduction, piano; Alberto Collodel, bass clarinet; Filippo Vignato, trombone; Agnese Amico, violin; Enrico Milani, cello; Marco Centasso, contrabbass; Alessio Ghezzi, vibraphone; Laura Faoro, flutes.
In collaboration with Padua University Art Centre (IT)



A composer of visionary power, a singer with a cavernous bass voice, a collaborator of great musicians like Meredith Monk and Pierre Boulez, Julius Eastman (1940-1990) has been a cornerstone of the New York music scene. His sprawling, propulsive works had titles that ranged from the provocative (“Evil Nigger”) to the winking (“If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich?”). Yet he died alone and his music was forgotten by everyone for a long time. Until these last few years.

Italian premiere of Eastman’s Femenine (1974) was staged by the Padua Art Center in 2022. Given the notable success, the live performance was broadcast on Radio3 Suite a few months later. The ensemble of musicians – from different backgrounds, but all experts in improvisation – has been created and directed by Giovanni Mancuso.

“It is a long hypnotic and ecstatic ritual, in the style that Eastman himself had defined as “organic music”: it’s a kind of compositions that leave great freedom to the performers, made up of slow transformations which, starting from a continuous rhythmic pulsation, develop in gradual processes of accumulation until it then fragments into long phases of disintegration. The ensemble follows an open score, made up of melodic patterns that fit together in ever new ways in the different sections, giving the musicians a wide possibility of choice, but all driven by a continuous rhythmic, vibrant pulsation” (M. Polato).

“A recording of one of his best pieces, “Femenine,” from 1974, has been released on the Frozen Reeds label, and shows what he was all about. Ecstatically lively, it is perhaps the most clearly beautiful thing Eastman wrote in a career spent challenging his audience” (New York Times).

“What I’m trying to achieve is to be who I am to the maximum,” he said in a 1976 interview. “Black to the maximum, musician to the maximum, homosexual to the maximum.” Contemporary music has been almost entirely devoid of significant black and queer artists. But the history of Minimalism, in particular, has been dominated by white men — La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, Philip Glass — and Eastman is a key addition to their company, even if his take on the style was “idiosyncratic “, rebellious, and perhaps ahead of his time.


The concert will present the first performance in Milan of Femenine by Julius Eastman, the only African-American homosexual in the cosmos of New York minimalism dominated by white intellectuals.

The listening experience of this piece opens the door to multiple stimuli, crossing minimalism and improvisational music, classical music, jazz and pop, as an attempt to overcoming the boundaries between genres.

In Femenine, in fact, Eastman’s compositional (and social) idea fully comes to life: that is of an “organic music”, a music understood as a sound creation that overcomes and incorporates diversity, breaking down fictitious and pre-established barriers, not only between musical genres, but also between the composer and the performers, between the musicians and the spectators.

Precisely to better recreate this unique, hypnotic collective ritual, Femenine in BASE Milano acoustic spaces will break away from the classic concert to give life to a more informal happening, which truly puts the public and artists in contact, according to that ideal of secular and universal brotherhood through art and music that we believe can truly still have a strong value today.

Giovanni Mancuso

Born in Venice in 1970, he graduated in piano under the guidance of Wally Rizzardo at the “Benedetto Marcello” Conservatory in Venice in 1992 with top marks. He subsequently graduated with top marks from the chamber music specialization courses at the “Incontri col Maestro” Academy in Imola. He studied at the Scuola Civica of Milan, specializing in contemporary chamber repertoire with Renato Rivolta. He then attended specialization courses in composition under the guidance of Salvatore Sciarrino (1990-92). He is the winner of numerous composition prizes including: Biennial of Young Artists of Mediterranean Europe – Lisbon 1994; Grieg Memorial Competition (Oslo 1995); Rockefeller Foundation (New York, 2003); European Association for Jewish Culture (London – Paris) 2003 Grant Award. He also won the seventh edition of the Spoleto Orpheus International Competition for new chamber works (president of the commission: Louis Andriessen) with the opera “Obra Maestra” inspired by Frank Zappa .

He has received commissions from important musical institutions including: Abruzzo Symphonic Institute; La Fenice Gran Teatro Orchestra; Music Venice Biennale Musica; Venice Biennale Dance; Orchestra Giovanile Italiana; European Association for Jewish Culture; Ex Novo Ensemble; Milano Musica festival; Sentieri Selvaggi ensemble; Pomeriggi Musicali Orchestra. His opera “Il Ritorno dei Chironomidi” was performed in the 2015/2016 opera season of the Teatro La Fenice in Venice. For the opera season of the Teatro Comunale di Treviso (2017) he presented “Atlas 101”, a dream-mathematical spy-opera in 17 paintings.

He has collaborated with Raiz, Pietro Tonolo, Frederic Rzewski, Philip Corner, Malcolm Goldstein, Butch Morris, Carlo Boccadoro, Debora Petrina, Sentieri Selvaggi, Lukas Ligeti, Francesco Cusa, Charlemagne Palestine, Sylvano Bussotti, Frank London, Alvin Curran. In 1991 he founded the ensemble Laboratorio Novamusica with which he carries out intense concert activity as a pianist and director in Italy, France, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Lebanon, Norway, Austria and Poland. In 2002 he founded the record label Galatina Records (distributed by FMP – Berlin). In 2016 he founded the ensemble “Chironomids Outerspace Group” with which he presented original projects dedicated to the music of Frank Zappa, Terry Riley, John Cage and his own compositions. He lives in Venice and teaches at the “B.Marcello” Conservatory in Venice.