The same sad story. A brilliant artist isn’t recognized in his time. Unable to find work, becomes homeless, and dies an early death. In his book American Music in the Twentieth Century, composer/author Kyle Gann briefly sums up Eastman’s work: “Born in New York, he graduated from the Curtis Institute in composition and was discovered by Lukas Foss, who conducted his music, including Stay On It (1973), one of the first works to introduce pop tonal progressions and free improvisation in an art context. Applying minimalism’s additive process to the building of sections, he developed a composing technique he called “organic music,” a cumulatively overlapping process in which each section of a work contains, simultaneously, all the sections which preceded it. The pieces he wrote in this style often had intentionally provocative titles intended to reinterpret the minorities Eastman belonged to in a positive light: for example, Evil Nigger, Crazy Nigger, and Gay Guerrilla (all circa 1980). These three pieces, all scored for multiple pianos, build up immense emotive power through the incessant repetition of rhythmic figures.” Eastman, born in 1940 had trouble finding work through most of his life. Though, at one point he taught theory at SUNY Buffalo. The details are murky, but he was promised a job at Cornell University however it never materialized. Soon, he was evicted from his apartment, his belongings (including scores) thrown in the street. In 1990 he died. His obituary wasn’t published until eight months after his death.
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