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Wild Up: Tiny Desk Concert

I was certain that we'd never fit 14 musicians — playing winds, strings, piano, bass and even a vibraphone — behind Bob Boilen's desk. But the members of the new music ensemble Wild Up, with their can-do attitude and their effervescent artistic director Christopher Rountree, were completely amenable to being shoved and squeezed and finally fanned out just right in front of our cameras and microphones.

They traveled all the way from California to play a single piece by a composer to whom Rountree and his musicians have devoted their lives for the past few years. Wild Up has just released its third album of music by Julius Eastman in a projected seven-volume series. Eastman was proudly Black and proudly gay, revered in his short heyday of the 1970s and early '80s, but tragically misunderstood and nearly forgotten by the time of his death in 1990, alone in a Buffalo, N.Y. hospital at age 49.

Today, as Eastman's music is being brought into the spotlight by Wild Up and others, he's celebrated as an experimental visionary who brandished his own provocative way of getting the listener to think about sound and context.

For this performance, the band plays a 15-minute arrangement of a longer piece from 1973 called Stay On It. The music is nothing less than an exuberant house party unto itself, infectious and revelatory.

To perform Eastman's works, Rountree says, can be transformational.

"They're the kind of pieces you breathe in as a musician, and they do their work on you," he explains. "And when you breathe them out again, you're breathing not only the piece but also a different version of yourself."

SET LIST

  • Stay On It
  • MUSICIANS

  • Christopher Rountree: artistic director, conductor
  • Richard Valitutto: piano
  • Tariq Al-Sabir: voice
  • Shelley Washington: voice
  • Jodie Landau: voice, percussion
  • Sidney Hopson: percussion
  • Darian Donovan Thomas: violin, electronics
  • Andrew Tholl: violin
  • Adrianne Pope: violin
  • Mona Tian: viola
  • Derek Stein: cello
  • Marlon Martinez: electric bass
  • Patrick Shiroishi: alto saxophone
  • M.A. Tiesenga: baritone saxophone
  • Isabel Lepanto Gleicher: flute
  • TINY DESK TEAM

  • Producer: Tom Huizenga
  • Director/Editor: Maia Stern
  • Audio Engineer: Neil Tevault
  • Creative Director: Bob Boilen
  • Series Producer: Bobby Carter
  • Videographers: Maia Stern, Kara Frame, Joshua Bryant, Sofia Seidel
  • Audio Assistant: Josephine Nyouani
  • Production Assistant: Ashley Pointer
  • Photographer: Catie Dull
  • Tiny Desk Team: Suraya Mohamed, Josh Rogosin, Jill Britton, Marissa Lorusso, Hazel Cills
  • VP, Visuals and Music: Keith Jenkins
  • Senior VP, Programming: Anya Grundmann
  • Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Tom Huizenga is a producer for NPR Music. He contributes a wide range of stories about classical music to NPR's news programs and is the classical music reviewer for All Things Considered. He appears regularly on NPR Music podcasts and founded NPR's classical music blog Deceptive Cadence in 2010.