Ilhan Mimaroglu – Outstanding Warrants

Ilhan Mimaroglu
Outstanding Warrants
(Southport – 2001)
  by John Barrett

Ilhan Mimaroglu was an electronics pioneer, recording his first efforts in the late ‘Fifties and working many years at the Columbia-Princeton Music Center, the first school devoted to electronic music. (He’s also the nephew of Atlantic Records’ Ahmet Ertegun, and for a decade ran Finnadar Records, Atlantic’s classical-music label.) His works are formal at the center, using dissonance as an instrument and not a random flavor. “Fanfare” starts with a low rumble (a sampled piano?) joined to a noisy synthesizer (the “horns” of the fanfare.) A placid interlude is cut short, leading to ping-pong sounds and science-fiction squeals.

“Istanbul Fog” mixes bells, deep horns, and clarinets (all done on synths, and very well.) Hopeful themes emerge, and are buried in the bellowing drones. “Cipher Casting” could be a string concerto: spooky themes are stated low and repeated up high. (There’s some similarity to Edgard Varése, with whom Mimaroglu worked.) “Prelude #20” ascends slowly, tense as it gathers strength. An oboe-like theme twists around, sad without direction – this leads to “Letting a Hundred Flowers Bloom”, where Mao’s ode to tolerance is crushed by a flood of noise. Rarely has a statement been made so simply … and so effectively.

Some of the later works are freer in structure – more wild, and to me less interesting musically. “Le Belle et La Poubelle” starts with a demented take on “America the Beautiful”, and shrinks to a mournful whistle. A silent-movie organ leads to a funky drum machine and several eerie moans. (In mid-song it switches to a gentle waltz – disjointed, but it works.) “Prelude #24” is a gathering of stomach-growls, accompanied by snapping rubber bands. “Bleaker Streets: is a flashback, its beeps and boops suggesting the early days of electronic music. The landscape grows crowded, and the notes pop up like weeds. Synthetic violins buzz through “Prelude #22”, spooky and fast; there’s a spacey horn on “Melody Lost and Found”, calling to the stars. It’s what we thought the future would sound like; if you’ve a taste for avant-garde, this’ll make you nostalgic for the 25th century.