Dev Hynes has proven himself to be an artist who is well versed in multiple styles, whether he’s playing R&B as Blood Orange, scoring films like Queen & Slim, or performing classical music. Today he is showing off his skills in the latter field by sharing a piano improvisation he performed, based on the Julius Eastman composition “Evil N*****.”
The performance took place last month as part of Black Power Live, a virtual music festival presented by FORM and Jammcard, which also featured performances by artists like Kamasi Washington and Vagabon. Aside from sharing the audio of the performance, Hynes also posted the video, in which he hunches over his piano and riffs on the song.
Eastman was a minimalist composer born in 1940 and who passed away in 1990. He often gave his works provocative titles, like “Crazy N*****” and “Gay Guerrilla.” The New Yorker noted that Eastman said he uses the word “n*****” in his works because it represents “a basicness, a fundamentalness, and eschews that thing which is superficial or — what can we say? — elegant.” They also previously said that “Evil N*****” “becomes fixated on a minor-key figure, in falling fourths, that resembles the opening motif of Mahler’s First Symphony.”
Watch Hynes perform his “Evil N*****” improvisation above.