Arthur Russell

Apr 10th at 8pm

2220 Arts + Archives

Program

  • Arthur Russell 24 to 24 Music (workshop performance)

About

As the opening exploration into a series of projects around the works and legacy of Arthur Russell, we delve into the context and practice of Russell’s minimalist disco masterwork 24 to 24 Music. Performed a number of times during Russell’s life, this openform jam for ensemble, percussion, keyboards, and voices, lives somewhere between CBGB and Carnegie Hall.  The only lasting remnants of the work include manuscript fragments, live recordings, one studio recording, including Russell’s sometimes band leader and keyboardist, Julius Eastman. To think that this piece and its alchemical power has been living, not often performed, and largely outside of classical music since the 70s is a sadness and a thrill. Russell’s singular voice, rough, drenched, and joyful, has inspired us and so many others. We see Eastman’s legacy and Russell’s legacy intertwined. In searching through the history of American music as a tool for contemplating the future of classical music, we can’t think of two more powerful, open, energetic, loving, or earnest predecessors to learn from.  We’re not sure what we’ll find with this workshop: the sounds of other composers might waft from the ceiling, it’ll probably be part Fluxus happening, part installation, and let’s face it: it’ll be a disco.

Artists

  • Arthur Russell

    Arthur Russell was a formally trained cellist and composer with a background in Indian classical music, and a resume highlighted by collaborations with Allen Ginsberg, Philip Glass and Julius Eastman. His involvement in Manhattan’s downtown performance scene of the ’70s resulted in a long-running association with the Kitchen. The same Arthur Russell was also a quirky songwriter, a producer of one-shot disco singles, a founding partner of seminal hip-hop/dance label Sleeping Bag, and a principle designer of the dubby, underground club sound that bridged the gap between the disco era and the first stirrings of house and garage music. Yet, despite a career that seemed contradictory on the surface, he produced a body of work notable for its focus, integrity, and singularity.

    Russell and his cello moved from Iowa to San Francisco in the early ’70s, where he studied at a school founded by Hindustani (North Indian) music master Ali Akbar Khan. During this West Coast period, he began his association with Ginsberg by providing musical accompaniment for many of the poet’s performances. Russell moved to New York in the mid-70s, where he collaborated in the Flying Hearts, a rock project that involved the likes of David Byrne, Rhys Chatham, and Peter Gordon. In 1979, Russell produced “Kiss Me Again,” the first disco single for Sire Records, and made his reputation as a dance music producer with Loose Joint’s “Is It All Over My Face” for West End. The club mix of this single was one of the earliest efforts by Paradise Garage DJ Larry Levan and qualifies without doubt as a prototype of what came to be known as the Garage sound. In 1982, under the name Dinosaur L, Russell released 24-24 Music on his own Sleeping Bag label. The 12″ single from this album, a Francois Kevorkian remix of “Go Bang,” epitomized the loose, jazzy, somewhat minimalist underground sound that would inform Chicago house. Though the record was not a huge dancefloor smash, it was an influential turntable hit. It found its way into many radio mixes and supplied the identifying sample for Todd Terry’s “Bango.”

    In 1983, Russell released a portion of a larger instrumental composition as the Tower of Meaning LP and another Loose Joints single. His 1986 World of Echo was a one-man-show of quietist original songs in a solo cello and vocal format that seemed designed to be overheard. World of Echo embodies the link between the two sides of Russell’s output. The unusually percussive cello accompaniment evident on the album versions of “Wax the Van,” “Let’s Go Swimming” and “Treehouse” could be preliminary sketches for the keyboard and drum versions of those tunes that appeared on Russell produced 12″ singles. Though World of Echo received a favorable critical reception in the U.K. music press, Russell remained relatively obscure throughout his life, which was ended by AIDS in 1992. In 1994, a retrospective of previously unissued material was released as Another Thought.

About Endless Season

Art in LA has been about freedom and an abundant eschewing of history. With intersecting methods and intentions, humble, aspiring, a city appealing to the aesthete and the mystic in all of her citizens. Here, famous artists are also street-side sign painters, our best restaurants drive or live in strip malls, and our landmarks are geographical before architectural or fleetingly experiential instead of permanent monuments to their own lineages. Here, our religious and secular musics sound the same.

Endless Season gathers around these uniquely West Coast traits. We ask lead artists to question, reinterpret, and challenge the past, modality, and genre. We hold a space of intersectionality and dialogue surrounding every aspect of our work. Together, we will explore the breadth of work and practices, discovering the many shapes of music and ideas in LA today.

Endless 2023 – 2024

This season puts Wild Up members at the center more than ever, showcasing the creative energy of this community of artists. There will be a dozen concerts featuring members not only as brilliant performers but also as composers and creators. The nexus is ENCLAVE, a weekend festival of Wild Up Composers and Creators in December, featuring Andrew Tholl, Shelley Washington, Jodie Landau, Sidney Hopson. Like most of the season, this weekend highlights the many shapes of music and ideas in Los Angeles today and starts codifying an LA school of composition.

Milestones run through the season, including revivals and seminal works from Julius Eastman and Gérard Grisey and more than a dozen World and West Coast Premieres, including workshops of three new large-scale works-in-progress: a new multi-disciplinary work by Sarah Hennies, with visual artist Susan Silton and L.A. Poet Laureate Lynne Thompson, portraits of genius emerging artists Leiliehua Lanzilotti, inti figgis-vizueta, and claire rousay, a new opera by David Longstreth, and the very beginnings of a deep dive into Arthur Russell.

In 2024, we welcome the return of Darkness Sounding, a festival that explores how listening, sound, and music shape our understanding of the world.