Composer Rocco di Pietro publishes new book

Composer Rocco di Pietro publishes
Yours in Beethoven:
A Memoir of My Musical Journey with Julius Eastman

Book publication dovetails with Julius Eastman photography exhibition
at The 92nd Street Y in New York City

Composer Rocco di Pietro’s new book, Yours in Beethoven: A Memoir of My Musical Journey with Julius Eastman, has just been published via BookBaby and is featured at an exhibition devoted to the late Eastman at The 92nd Street Y in New York City that opened on March 14 and will continue through May 2, 2023. The exhibition of Christine Rusiniak’s photography and images of Eastman, which prominently features her Water Series, includes a full vitrine case devoted to the book, including scores of Hail Mary (a work written by Eastman for Di Pietro). Yours in Beethoven: A Memoir of My Musical Journey with Julius Eastman is 167 pages and is available via and Barnes and Noble.

Di Pietro’s memoir of his personal and professional relationship with the composer Julius Eastman (1940-1990) contains reprints of source material from Julius Eastman including personal correspondence, concert posters, and musical scores.

Author’s note: Between 1978 and 1980, a colorful and eccentric reaction to minimalism occurred centered around monody*. The works I composed for Julius Eastman (Homemade Aria, Donizetti in Buffalo, Bellini on the Moon, and Aria for Piano), which he sang in or conducted at the Kitchen in New York City or elsewhere, all fit into this New Monody.

A number of New York “downtown” composers around Eastman –people like Jeffrey Lohn and others – contributed to this vein as well. Eastman fit these others’ works in around his own, which used a new form of minimalism at that time.

It was one of the many cracks and fissures happening in the old “New Music,” and many others also took part like Claude Vivier and Arvo Pärt, although without any of these people having any real contact with one another. It was something in the air: a kind of return to “The New Middle Ages,” as Umberto Eco called it in his book Travels in Hyperreality.

This memoir in music with Julius Eastman is then a chronicle of that period and beyond – when contemporary music bifurcated and opened up. It shows how my path intertwined with Eastman’s path at the crossroads of our developments.

(*Monody is a style of accompanied solo song consisting of a vocal line, which is frequently embellished, and simple, often expressive, harmonies.)

Rocco Di Pietro is a composer, pianist, author, and educator born in Buffalo, New York in 1949. He learned to compose by composing, and studied music with Hans Hagen and Lukas Foss in Buffalo and at the Berkshire Music Center, Tanglewood, and in New York and Darmstadt with Bruno Maderna. He earned degrees from SUNY Buffalo and Vermont College. He became an interdisciplinary adjunct professor teaching in prisons and on many college campuses throughout New York, Ohio, and California. He was ASCAP Fellow to The Berkshire Music Center, Tanglewood, Yaddo Fellow, MacDowell Fellow, Headlands Center Fellow and SICA Artist in Residence at Stanford University. He toured California prisons as artist-in-residence and conducted four years of interviews in Chicago with Pierre Boulez. The resulting book, DIALOGUES WITH BOULEZ, was published by Scarecrow Press. His other books include RAJAS FOR JOHN CAGE and YOURS IN BEETHOVEN: A MEMOIR OF MY MUSICAL JOURNEY WITH JULIUS EASTMAN.

Di Pietro’s music has been performed by many musicians in venues throughout the world. Over the past decade, his work has developed on several fronts, with a focus on larger works for orchestra and chamber ensembles. Movements of his cello Symphony No.2: THE ART OF IMAGINAL LISTENING have been performed by the Stanford Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Maestro Jin Dong Cai, and the Greater Columbus Community Orchestra with the Columbus Children’s Choir, conducted by Olev Viro. Recent performances include RAJAS FOR JOHN CAGE at The Ohio State University’s Wexner Center for the Arts, MESSAGE FROM JULIUS EASTMAN at Savvy Contemporary in Berlin, the Interpretations-Roulette New York birthday retrospective with Mivos Quartet, Robert Dick, Kathleen Supové, and Joseph Kubera of SEM; and his concerto for violin and chamber orchestra MEDIEVAL WOODS AND FIELDS by the Hilliard Bach Ensemble. Di Pietro remains an active performer who since 1995 has coordinated the Columbus Campaign for Arms Control’s annual Peace Concert remembering the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Di Pietro worked for 10 years with the incarcerated as a prison rehabilitationist; for ten years with the lost as a Social worker in transitional living; and thirty years as a teaching artist in the humanities. He currently teaches the history of world cinema.

Julius Eastman (1940-1990) was a composer, conductor, singer, pianist, and choreographer. A singular figure in New York City’;s downtown scene of the 1970s and 80s, he also performed at Lincoln Center with Pierre Boulez and the New York Philharmonic, and recorded music by Arthur Russell, Morton Feldman, Peter Maxwell Davies, and Meredith Monk. “What I am trying to achieve is to be what I am to the fullest,” he said in 1976. ”Black to the fullest, a musician to the fullest, a homosexual to the fullest.”

Despite his prominence in the artistic and musical community in New York, Eastman died in obscurity in a Buffalo, NY hospital. His death went unreported for eight months, until an obituary by Kyle Gann appeared in the Village Voice. Eastman left behind few scores and recordings, and his music lay dormant for decades until a three-CD set of his compositions titled Unjust Malaise was issued in 2005 by New World Records. In the years since, there has been a steady increase in attention paid to his music and life, punctuated by newly found recordings and manuscripts, worldwide performances and new arrangements of his surviving works, and newfound interest from choreographers, scholars, educators, and journalists.”The brazen and brilliant music of Julius Eastman…commands attention: wild, grand, delirious, demonic, an uncontainable personality surging into sound”, writes Alex Ross for The New Yorker.