They Said! On Julius Eastman's Prelude to the Holy Presence of Joan D'Arc - Jessica Higgins

THEY SAID! simmers, boils and simmers again on the 1981 solo vocal composition Prelude to the Holy Presence of Joan d’Arc. Language, listening and voice are at the core of the essay. As is the relationship between Julius Eastman and Joan d’Arc which, as readers, we’re invited not to divide into two individual histories but encouraged to consider a singular position which both figures may have inhabited across distances. The essay opens with an exclamation mark which weaves through the text, alive with an open sense of speculation and inquiry as we explore the many facets of Prelude.

Letter (writing) is a central reference — given Eastman’s penchant to put pen to paper, bringing the personal into the open — and the text itself reads like a letter being written or a conversation unfolding. It is swift and agile, carrying us along as it joins the dots, while breaking at times for a moment of improvisation, silence, or a prompt to speak. Formally, we hear the voices not just of Jessica, but of Eastman (of course!), Joan of Arc, Gertrude Stein and scholars of Eastman’s life, which offer a gentle introduction for those who may not be familiar with his life and work. An engagement with letters — as in correspondence as well as units of language — are at the core of our reading of the song. Complexity and simplicity were central to Eastman’s practice and character in the same way a letter can “tell all”, an exclamation mark can give a little more.

The Grass is Green in the Fields for You, 2023
Softcover, 24pp
255 x 180mm

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