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Jessica Higgins’s THEY SAID is an iceberg of an essay; a crisp, gleaming peak sitting atop a massive weight of thought and research. Addressing Julius Eastman’s ‘Prelude to the Holy Presence of Joan d’Arc’ – a 1981 solo vocal composition that feels opaque and ungainly – THEY SAID presents a series of doors for entering this tough 11 minutes of song. Higgins covers Gertrude Stein, the history of the exclamation point, word derivations, the way ideas turn into songs, the way songs persist, and most of all, the vastness of Eastman’s thinking and attitude.

The design of this book is excellent, vital. I was irritated at first because I wanted a smaller book, something compact to be held close. I wanted a solitary, concentrated experience, which is how I think of Eastman’s music, having only experienced it on record, on headphones. But the book feels better shared, the type large enough for two people sitting next to each other to share, a kind of openness and invitation that the text reveals as a vital part of the work, of Eastman’s work, of music, truly.

10 x 7 inches, 24 pages, saddle stitched.