Collective Journey

Fine piece of electronic / electroacoustic composition from Mesias Maiguashca, on his Oeldorf 8 (KARL RECORDS KR080).

Always a pleasure to discover a lesser-known name in the history of electronic composition (too often dominated by the same names of Big Kahunas), and it turns out this Ecuadorian fellow is a force worthy of inclusion with other South American “maverick sound explorers” such as Cesar Bolanos and Beatriz Ferreyra. Maiguashca studied in his home country, New York, and in Germany; he was taught by Ginastera and Stockhausen, and learned a lot from his time at the Darmstadt summer school in the late 1960s, going on to do work in the WDR and appearing on the 1967 recording of Stocky’s Ensemble (released in 1972 as WER 60 065). Today’s record Oeldorf 8 was originally released in 1976 on Nea Mousa Records – as far as we know, the first and last item in that label’s catalogue – and has since become one of those hard-to-get rarities for which vinyl collectors are prepared to pay over 200 simoleons…although there was a Creel Pone CDR version in 2017.

What strikes me on hearing Mesias Maiguashca is that it’s very rugged – exhibiting signs of an individual who doesn’t fit neatly into the manicured history of 20th century composition, and follows his own lights. Even the circumstances of its creation are a bit off-beat; the composer founded his  Oeldorf Group in 1971, with Peter Eotvos (organ player from Hungary), Joachim Krist (Austrian violinist), and Gabriele Schumacher (cellist and wife of the composer), and they set up their own studio in a farmhouse outside Cologne. Here they could produce their own electronic music and recordings, and they even gave live concerts in the nearby barn. We’re invited to see the Oeldorf Group as a “musician’s collective” which flourished during the 1970s, although it’s not entirely clear to me if they expanded to include other players in their inner circle, or what other pieces of music were in their repertoire. No matter, as this particular release crams a lot of musical information into its grooves – it in fact comprises 10 separate short compositions, sequenced to be performed one after the other, a fact which accounts for its very varied fabric, range of moods, diversity of techniques…some pieces are scored for two or four instruments in this small chamber ensemble – there’s also the clarinet player Dietrich Fritsche, guest player from the Saarbrucken Radio Symphony Orchestra – some are tape compositions, a few of them combine tape with instruments.

Over 48 minutes, we hear a wide range of composerly ideas and some fascinating music, veering from near-chaotic electronic noise to well-ordered modernist dissonances and powerful drone effects. The composer owns that it reflects “a very fruitful period in my life” and he regards it as something very personal, “an individual and collective autobiography of two years of togetherness”. All credit to the label for reissuing this choice nugget of 20th-century music. From 2nd October 2020.