For Relevant Tones Live: Vanishing City, a free, live taping of WFMT Chicago’s Relevant Tones at the David Rubenstein Atrium on September 20, host Seth Boustead will go in search of lost voices from New York City’s musical past. Boustead’s fellow sleuths include author Jeremiah Moss (Vanishing New York), Open House New York executive Director Gregory Wessner, architect and author Vishaan Chakrabarti (A Country of Cities), Carnegie Hall’s Ensemble Connect, Opera on Tap, conductor Mila Henry, and NewMusicBox co-editor Frank J. Oteri.

To get us ready, Oteri—a native New Yorker and composer—has helped us put together sound-and-image dossiers on the four composers whose music will be featured on the show: Julius Eastman, Arthur Russell, Tui St. George Tucker, and Ben Weber.  

  • Julius Eastman

    Photo by Christine Rusniak

    Born 10/27/40 in New York, NY
    Died 5/28/90 in Buffalo, NY
    “Julius Eastman was a black, gay composer in a scene with no antecedents for him. His 1970s compositions open up a counter-narrative for new music in downtown New York, foregrounding race, sex, and politics while turning the patter of minimalism into a hard rain. Eastman connected Eastern thought and Western tonality, and made art songs sound like pop songs. He painted his face silver without telling anyone. He left New York without telling anyone. He changed New York without telling anyone.” —Sasha Frere-Jones, The Village Voice5/2/2018

Playlist: Vanishing City
Photos by Dan Gomes
Julius lived for many years at 312 East 6th Street (left), but was evicted in the early 1980s. Many of his scores were impounded and he lived for a time in Tompkins Square Park. The Tower Records on Broadway and East 4th where he once worked is now a production studio, Blink gym, and Soul Cycle studio.

  • Arthur Russell

    Photo courtesy of Audika Records, Tom Lee, and the estate of Arthur Russell

    Born 5/21/51 in Oskaloosa, IA
    Died 4/4/92 in New York, NY

    "His recent performances had been so infrequent due to illness, his songs were so personal, that it seems as though he simply vanished into his music.” —Kyle Gann, The Village Voice, 4/28/1992

    “His body of work defied categorization. Some of it his friend and collaborator Allen Ginsberg called 'Buddhist bubblegum music.' Some of it, singles that Russell released under different names, became a staple at night clubs in lower Manhattan; his exuberant single 'Is It All Over My Face' became an instant classic at vogue balls. Some of it sounded, in the words of Russell’s collaborator Peter Gordon, like hymns that 'could have been made two hundred years ago.' Always, it sounded as if it could have been made only by this particular person, a classically trained cellist from the heartland who hated that people compared his voice to James Taylor’s, who became entranced by classical ragas and Muzak, and who never quite got to finish.” —Lucy Schiller, The New Yorker, 2/25/2017

    Listen to Arthur's music on Spotify.

    Watch Arthur's work Some Imaginary Far Away Type Things A.K.A. Lost In The Meshs with unedited film imagery by Phill Niblock.

Playlist: Vanishing City
Photos by Dan Gomes
Arthur lived briefly with Allen Ginsberg at 437 East 12th Street (which now houses a private preschool on the ground level). He then moved upstairs in the building with the partner he would stay with for the rest of his life, Tom Lee. The story is that they met at the Gem Spa newsstand on the corner of St. Mark's Place and 2nd Avenue, which is miraculously still there! It's just a block away from where he played often at the legendary Club 57, once a church and now a mental health clinic.

Playlist: Vanishing City
Photo by Dan Gomes
For nearly 40 years (from 1946 to 1985), Tui lived with her life partner, German émigré poet Vera Lachmann, at 47 Barrow Street, where she kept two upright pianos tuned a quarter tone apart at a right angle from each other.

  • Ben Weber

    Photo courtesy of Roger Tréfousse

    Born 7/23/16 in St. Louis, MO
    Died 6/16/79 in New York, NY

    “Ben lived as a recluse in a dingy, crowded apartment, but, like Prospero in The Tempest, he could transform the atmosphere around him into something 'rich and strange.' His living room, perched high above what was then a dangerous and derelict Central Park, became a spacious, magical place, full of light, where one could absorb profound thoughts and feelings about art, music and life itself.” —Roger Tréfousse, "The Strange Life of Ben Weber," [American Composers Alliance website]  

    Listen to Ben's Piano Concerto.

    Listen to Ben's String Quartet No. 2. 

Playlist: Vanishing City
Photo by Frank J. Oteri
Ben Weber moved to NYC from Chicago in 1945. He lived at 230 West 11th Street until he moved uptown to 103rd Street and Central Park West in 1960, where he lived until his death.

ASCAP award-winning composer and music journalist Frank J. Oteri is the Composer Advocate for New Music USA, the Co-Editor of its web magazine NewMusicBox, and a member of the Executive Committee of the International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM).

Amanda MacBlane is Associate Director of Communications at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.