Archive | April 2, 2013

Jace Clayton Revives A Forgotten Voice From New York’s Vanguard

Musician Jace Clayton, who also performs under the name DJ /rupture, says he fell in love with the work of little-known composer Julius Eastman. Enlarge image i

Musician Jace Clayton, who also performs under the name DJ /rupture, says he fell in love with the work of little-known composer Julius Eastman.

Rocio Rodriguez Salceda/Courtesy of the artist

Musician Jace Clayton, who also performs under the name DJ /rupture, says he fell in love with the work of little-known composer Julius Eastman.

Musician Jace Clayton, who also performs under the name DJ /rupture, says he fell in love with the work of little-known composer Julius Eastman.

Rocio Rodriguez Salceda/Courtesy of the artist

The experimental music hotbed that was New York in the 1960s and ’70s is a tough one to rival. Think of all the famous names: Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Albert Ayler, Patti Smith. A name you probably haven’t heard? Singer, writer, dancer and minimalist composer Julius Eastman.

“When I first heard his music, I was actually floored,” musician Jace Clayton says. “It was beautiful, it was muscular and hypnotic. [I thought,] ‘Wow, this was being made back then — what other things have I missed?’ ”

But even for classical music devotees, Eastman was easy to miss — never as famous as the likes of Reich and Glass. As for reasons why, there are a lot of good guesses. He was black. He was gay. And the titles of his pieces were often provocative — darkly funny on one hand, Clayton says, but also deeply angry.


“Titles like ‘Evil N – – – – -,’ ‘Gay Guerilla,’ ” Clayton says. “Another title that I love so much is, ‘If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich?’ … He’s bringing in ideas of class and of race and of sex, and it’s all there in what is traditionally this sort of, like, white-cube blank-space of classical music.”

Clayton makes a lot of music himself, usually under the name DJ /rupture. But he’d been looking for something different to work on: a piece of classical music — pianos preferable — not just to perform, but to make his own. When he heard Eastman’s music, he says, everything clicked.

“The music itself, I loved,” Clayton says. “And then there’s the whole fact of, it’s been painfully underperformed. And on top of that, his whole approach had this whole irreverence to it. His scores were often very hastily written and a bit open for artistic interpretation.”

So Clayton took two Eastman pieces and recorded them as written: two pianos, onstage, playing together. Then came Step 2.

Hear Jace Clayton

“Gay Guerilla: Part I”

7 min 49 sec

  • Playlist
  • Purchase

Purchase Featured Music

  • “Gay Guerilla: Part I”
  • Album: Julius Eastman Memory Depot
  • Artist: Jace Clayton
  • Label: New Amsterdam
  • Released: 2013
  • Amazon »
Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

“What I did was then take those recordings, bring them back to my studio and start passing those piano sounds through all sorts of different patches and algorithms and effects boxes and whatnot,” Clayton says.

Thus was born his album, The Julius Eastman Memory Depot. As for Eastman himself, Clayton says, there isn’t a happy ending.

“His life kind of disappears a bit into rumor at the end,” Clayton says. “There are rumors of him having problems with drugs and alcohol. He was definitely evicted at one point and allegedly living in Tompkins Square Park. But he ended up back in upstate New York, and then in 1990 that was where he died at the age of 49 — so, really young. His close friends were completely out of touch with him at that point. By the end of this life, it’s just a bit of a mystery.”


Great Scott! Commenter says ‘time travel’ footage not what it seems


A video—supposedly shot in the 1930s—depicts a young woman carrying what looks like a cell phone. Is the clip evidence that the woman was a time traveler from the 21st century who forgot to leave her mobile at home?

Keep your DeLoreans in the garage: According to the Daily Mail, the short clip first surfaced a year ago around April Fools’ Day, which probably isn’t a coincidence. Now the clip is back in the news thanks to a commenter identified as “planetcheck,” who claims the woman in the video is Gertrude Jones, the commenter’s great grandmother.

“She was 17 years old,” planetcheck writes. “I asked her about this video and she remembers it quite clearly. She says Dupont had a telephone communications section in the factory. They were experimenting with wireless telephones. Gertrude and five other women were given these wireless phones to test out for a week. Gertrude is talking to one of the scientists holding another wireless phone who is off to her right as she walks by.”

Sounds logical, right? But other commenters aren’t convinced. “I’m quite sure it wouldn’t be that small, the device she is holding is the size of a modern cell phone, ones in the early 80s needed to be carried in a briefcase and later were huge bricks,” a commenter wrote. Others echoed the sentiment and wondered why phones—even those produced many years later—were much larger than the one in the clip.

Planetcheck writes that anyone interested in why the phone never saw the light of day would have to ask Dupont: “Maybe they decided it was too far advanced for people and they abandoned the idea. The Romans invented concrete. But it was quickly forgotten and not invented for another thousand years later. Ideas are hatched, prototypes are made and sometimes like this phone they are forgotten until somebody discovers some long lost film of the world first wireless phone and marvels at it.”

Planetcheck also gave an in-depth description of the phone, which Jones apparently got to keep. “It is light brown and made of Bakelite material. It is about 5 inches long and 3 inches wide. It has small buttons on the inside of the phone. The numbers are nearly worn out. They go from 0 to 9. It has the words Dupont Co. on the bottom of the phone. It weighs about a half a pound. The phone is sealed away in a glass box and has not been touched for many years. I have held the box though and am always amazed that this phone was around in 1938 making wireless calls.”

This isn’t the first time conspiracy theorists have used old black-and-white footage to speculate about time travel. Several years ago, footage from an old Charlie Chaplin film surfaced. In the clip, a woman is seen walking along with something held close to her ear. An Irish filmmaker called it evidence of time travel. The more likely explanation, experts argued: A hearing aid.

And one mustn’t forget the strange case of Nicolas Cage. A photo, supposedly taken in 1870, showed a man with a striking resemblance to the Oscar-winning actor. Cage, on “Late Show With David Letterman,” denied the photo was of him, and said as for any speculation that he was a vampire, “I don’t drink blood and the last time I looked in the mirror I had a reflection.”