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music

SAME DIFFERENCE

Julius Eastman at a rehearsal of the S.E.M. Ensemble, Griffi s Sculpture Park, East Otto, New York, 1975. Photo: Christine Rusiniak.

THERE IS SOMETHING very homosexual about using “multiple instruments of the same kind.” This is the ensemble instruction composer Julius Eastman gave for performing some of his most exciting scores, in which groups of players work through themes and variations, all on the same musical instrument. These compositions were introduced to new music audiences in the 1970s and ’80s and have been rarely heard since. Still, they are thrilling to witness live, as was made possible by the miraculous “That Which Is Fundamental,” an exhibition and concert series presented in Philadelphia at the Slought Foundation and the Sanctuary of the Rotunda in 2017 and expanded earlier this year at the Kitchen in New York. In performance, visual cues and subtle spatial arrangements separate layers of sound, setting off differences within a thick field of sameness, as the ensemble finds its repetitive

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