petak, 10. listopada 2014.

Juan Blanco - Nuestro Tiempo / Our Time (2013)


Juan Blanco (1919-2008) bio je pionir kubanske elektroakustičke muzike. Jako dobro. Kao da slušaš radijski prijenos sf-filma iz 15. stoljeća.


Innova has released a new album of music by Juan Blanco (1919-2008), a pioneer of electronic music in Cuba.
Blanco’s work is not well known, but he’s considered the first Cuban composer to explore electroacoustics, spatial music and multimedia works. Nuestro Tiempo offers a retrospective work.
The album features significant works from four decades in Blanco’s career. The works on Nuestro Tiempo are largely electronic, but also feature congas, timbales and saxophone.
The music on Blanco’s album has many similarities with that of his electroacoustic contemporaries, because of the limitations of the technologies of his time. But at times, it seems to leap from the speakers with lively rhythms unique to his Cuban heritage.
If you’re a fan of the electroacoustic tradition of electronic music, Nuestro Tiempo offers a welcome introduction to a little-known pioneer. -

Through most of the twentieth century, Cuban composer Juan Blanco (1919–2008) was an active and collaborative creator and cultural leader in his homeland—primarily, though not exclusively, through his work in electroacoustic music. “No Cuban composer epitomized musical innovation better than Blanco, who melded new music, electronic instruments, improvisation, and the island’s unique musical heritage,” wrote Neil Leonard, artistic director of Berklee College of Music’s Interdisciplinary Arts Institute, in Computer Music Journal. Yet, as Leonard continued, “little is known about him in North America and very little has been written about him in English.”
As someone whose Cuban music collection contains mostly jazz, mambo, and son, I admit that my first close encounter with Nuestro Tiempo was akin to stumbling upon an alien spacecraft (with vintage gear percolating inside) that began communicating parts of its creator’s story to me through sound. An unexpected, weird, but enchanting experience. Produced by Leonard and Philip Blackburn, this disc offers a glimpse into the sonic world of Blanco, who composed more than 160 works. It opens with the lively Cirkus Toccata (1983), in which Guillermo Barreto (timbales) and Tata Güines (congas) improvise with tremendous vigour to Blanco’s prepared tape of equally vigorous electronic patterns made with a Roland Jupiter 8 synthesizer. Later, on Espacios V (1993), Leonard’s soprano and tenor saxophones make simple, plaintive lines and wild flowerings in Blanco’s shifting, fertile spaces.
The haunting shimmer of Ella (1983), the varying ascents and hovering moves of Loops (1991), and the evocatively murky mysteries of Galaxia M-50 (1979) create space for the imagination to roam. But the gem, for me, is the ultra-lo-fi charmer Musica para Danza (1961), Blanco’s first electronic work, which sounds like a field of crickets and other softly hooting, chirping (alien) creatures in a lush nightscape of rhythmic counterpoint. Close your eyes, and you hear—as elsewhere on this disc—familiar Cuban rhythms in a magical new form. Beam me up, Blanco. - Jennie Punter
In 1961, using only an oscillator and three Sears Silvertone tape decks, Juan Blanco (1919–2008) became the first Cuban composer to create a piece of electroacoustic music. This composition, Música Para Danza, along with five others, appear on innova’s recent release entitled Juan Blanco: Nuestro Tiempo / Our Time. It contains the first collection of Blanco’s work on compact disc, featuring his compositions spread over four decades. Blanco’s early works, composed in the 1950s, utilized nationalistic themes. During the Batista regime he was a successful tax lawyer representing large American corporations such as Coca Cola. After his clients fled following the overthrow of Batista in January 1959, Blanco gave up law to practice music full-time. Apparently Blanco’s negotiating and compositional skills were savvy enough to win over the likes of Che Guevara, who met with Blanco’s Nuestro Tiempo composers’ group to congratulate them for their role in the resistance movement. During the 1970s Blanco created electroacoustic music for the Department of Propaganda of the ICAP (Instituto Cubano de Amistad con Los Pueblos). Later, he was appointed the director of the Laboratorio National de Música Electroacústica (LNME), and also served as musical director for the National Council of Culture (Consejo Nacional de Cultura).
Saxophonist and composer Neil Leonard not only supplied the well-researched liner notes for this CD, but also performs on a piece that is dedicated to him, and contributed his mastering and audio restoration skills to this project, which he co-produced with Philip Blackburn. Leonard first met Blanco in 1986 during a visit to Cuba, and went back to work with Blanco at the LNME studio from 1989–1990. From then on Leonard kept in contact with Blanco, closely following his work for the last 22 years of his life. In 1993 Leonard worked with several organizations based in Boston, as well as Dartmouth College, Wesleyan University, and the Berklee College of Music, to bring Blanco to the United States for a series of concerts and guest lecture-ships. Given the personal connections to the composer and his work, this innova release represents a real labor of love.
Cirkus Toccata (1983), the first piece on this collection, is scored for two percussionists and tape, and like Ella (1983) and Galaxia M-50 (1979), was realized in the ICAP studio. For Cirkus Toccata Afro-Cuban percussionists improvise to a tape part that Blanco prepared using a Roland Jupiter 8 synthesizer and an eight-track tape recorder. According to Leonard, “the co-existence of electronic sound, Afro-Cuban rhythm, improvisation and experimental composition had never been explored to this extent in Cuba.” Blanco used the sequencer on his synthesizer to compose melodic patterns that he then manipulated in real time by changing their tempos and timbres, and by detuning them. The arpeggiator was used to produce a succession of melodic fragments that adhered to a steady sixteenth-note pulse. For the live percussion accompaniment he originally wrote parts in order to guide the performers through changes in style, meter, and tempo. But the two percussionists heard on this track decided that they were more comfortable, and could perform better, simply improvising along with the tape part.
Near the beginning of the piece, after a brief percussion introduction, Blanco fades in a harp-like timbre playing major thirds. Eventually the harp sound changes to other timbres through timbral manipulation and by changing the attack values of an envelope generator. Juxtaposed arpeggiated lines are heard together, each at a different tempo. On the surface one hears the percussionists playing in a relentless manner similar to the tape part. This is clearly one of the primary focal points of the piece. But the machine and humans also swap attributes. The tape part provides a mechanical, motoric approach to rhythm that begins to take on human characteristics as the piece progresses, through subtle envelope changes and perceptual streaming mechanisms produced by the arpeggiator, while the percussionists begin to sound more and more mechanical or machinelike, owing to high levels of rhythmic consistency. Additionally, the percussion parts are hard-panned, fixed in space, so that any audio traces of the players... - Ross Feller  Computer Music Journal (Impact Factor: 0.76). 01/2014; 38(2):84-86.

Many countries, like the Latin American countries, still are somewhat overlooked for what kind of creative explorations really happened. Juan Blanco surely had it's huge importance for Cuba, like his support of creative music in several societies, establishing groups like the Sociedad Cultural Nuestro Tiempo, for his own composing of course, and with these interests,  the development of electronic and electro-acoustic music in Cuba. Besides, we also need to mention that in 1942 he once had a similar idea compared to the mellotron, when he drew a design for a sampling keyboard with each key coupled to a wire recorder, so that we can also call him an inventor proving once more his creative desires in this explorative field.
He began composing and studying in the provincial conservatory and later earned a degree in law from the University of Havana. It was in the late 40s where he further developed the small Sociedad Amadeo Roldan which he renamed it the Sociedad Cultural Nuestro Tiempo (Our Time) a creative centre that from that moment could also include artists and writers. From that moment it attracted the participation and attention of most important artists in the country. It was not sponsored by any college or institution, so Blanco often paid for the costs so that it could produce concerts of ground-breaking works. Luckily, he earned his money as an attorney in tax law, representing large American companies like Coca Cola. When the rebellious socialist movement started, he lost all his clients and gave music all the attention. He asked the government and Che Guevara to give him a full-time job. Because the Sociedad had proved its supporting role in the resistance, he was able to assign to the Havanna Orchestra, then later also became the director of the National Cultural Council for whom he formed the Orchesta Cubana de Musica Moderna (-a forerunner of Irakere-) in which the state now was supposed to pay the composers a salary.
What changed his visions was his confrontation with tapes from Pierre Schaeffer, brought to him by novelist Alejo Carpentier. From that moment on he studied electronic music full time. Because he was obliged to stay in Cuba, and could not visit other studios, he assembled three Sears Silvertone tape decks, and began to assemble material himself for making electroacoustic music. In the beginning he only had an oscillator, tape splicing and feedback and overdub possibilities. “Musica para Danza” (1961), reissued here for the first time, was composed like this.
His radical 1969 work for theatre (consisting of naked actors and 24 instrumental groups) made it so that the responsible for the National Council of Culture was fired.
During the 70s he looked for a place to develop an electronic music studio but no conservatories were willing to help. Only a small studio at the Instituto Cubana de Amistad con el Pueble (ICAP) in 1979 was willing to participate. Blanco started to use the place as a new centre of development for new composers.
During the 80s, he was more involved in multimedia, performance, theatre and ballet, film and environmental sound pieces. In 1986, he established the International Festival for Electroacoustic Music in Varadero, which became a key meeting place for composers for Latin America. In 1990 the ministry started to support the studio and renamed it to Laboratorio Nacional de Musica Electroacoustica (LNME). Around that time the studio started to acquire the first computers used for teaching computer music. Blanco wrote programs for digital sounds with the NeXT machine, like “Loops” (1991).
What immediately stroke me is the natural environment and use that was found for Blanco's music, its spatial nature and the ability to introduce all this into a normal life setting, like within the traditional Cuban music association or in a theatre.
Cirkus Toccata” (1983) was published before on the LP "Música Electroacústica" (1986). It used a tape recording with melodic electronic rhythms that were created with the Roland Jupiter 8 synthesizer and an eight-track tape recorder as a tapestry of patterns and contrapuntal textures, which were used for a live Cuban percussive improvisation (congas by Tata Guines, -a celebrated player who had played with Stan Kenton and the Weather Report before-  and timbales by Guillermo Barreto). Especially the use of the mechanical, still playful series of notes for a direct acoustic improvisation, without further adaptation or changes to it still is a radically different setting for this kind of music. But it works.
“Musica para Danza” (1961) is like an electronic loop in several overdubbed layers with one layer of insect-like sounds, with interruptions of slower, deep windy tone movements of electronic tones, only to return to the playful almost dancing rhythms of the electronics.
Ela” (1983) uses slower organ-like hand played (?) chords of evolutions of tones, in contrast with gradually changing peeping tones and a slower movement of tones, forming thoroughly a more organic sonic world. Near the last part, a slightly aroused girl comes in making the musical play something more of a human reality or perception.
“Loops” (1993) is a computer piece that starts very minimal with gradual climbing or descending of tones. Some of the overtones that develop a bit further are rather sharp. After this first setting with rather sine wave tones, the next movement develops the tones further in complexity to something that sounds in between organ and voices, with is more pleasant. This evolves in the last part to overlapping combinations with this.
“Espacios V”(1969) shows similar organ-like tones, a pre-recorded foundation for an improvisation on it with Neil Leonard on melodic soprano saxophone. The combination of tones transcends a keyboard-like tension but changes in a more complex way than that. This changes also towards bowl-like gong sounds. This all works perfectly as a carpet for a moody, improvisation, naturally played like jazz, but still like a free improvisation.
Galaxia M-50” (1979) consists of meditative spatial tones, while from different directions other movements are felt to come nearer, like heavy objects being moved forward over the ground, echoing slightly when it stops. This changes into storm-weathery sounds like thundery rocks that move in space in various directions and starting points. On this part, a Spanish poem is slowly recited (by Fárida Hernández -), with breathy sighs too. This piece had been published before on the LP “Contemporaneos 4” (1979). -

Nema komentara:

Objavi komentar