Stay On It
One of the first musicians to add pop elements to the Minimalist mix, Julius Eastman was an African-American artist who studied piano at the Curtis Institute with Mieczyslaw Horszowski before switching his major to composition. He was also a noted singer, well known for his 1973 Nonesuch recording of Peter Maxwell Davies’ Eight Songs for a Mad King. (He also performed on two of Meredith Monk’s albums.) Many of his pieces, such as Evil Nigger, Crazy Nigger, and Gay Guerilla (all for four pianos), have an activist political aspect.
Eastman was a member of the Creative Associates ensemble at SUNY Buffalo in the late 1960s and early ’70s. He wrote Stay On It for that group in 1973, and toured and recorded it (in a live performance) with them. Eastman’s notation was often casual, and details of his scores have been created posthumously from recordings. Stay On It was a structured improvisation that could be performed with varying instrumentation, including a voice repeating the title words. Eastman’s brother Gerry notes a Caribbean influence in it.