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Subtitled "Music for Native Peruvian Instruments and Magnetophonic Tape (1978)" this is a wonderful collection of pieces composed between 1976 & 1978 at the Royal College's EMS by Peruvian composer Arturo Ruiz del Pozo. Ranging from extended tape-loop meditations to application of mystical folk instrumentation & enharmonic percussion sonorities, this is an incredibly eye-opening survey of the work of a composer of whose work I was completely unfamiliar prior to this issue.
Like many countries in Latin America, modern Peru formed within the embrace of left-leaning social programs in the post-colonial era, making the arts a central voice of its people. During the 1930’s and 40’s, again, like most other Latin America countries, it offered shelter to artists and intellectuals fleeing persecution in Europe. These figures brought the latest visions of creative possibility, notably those of the musical avant-garde, radically expanding Peru’s voice, connecting it to conversations which spanned the globe. When the war came to its close, with lines of conversation reopening and possibilities expanded by technology, Peru become one the first countries to build its own electronic music studio. Composers like César Bolaños, Edgar Valcárcel, and Enrique Pinilla entered the world stage, while a younger generation studied at home and abroad, looking for new ways to advance these ideas.
Unfortunately, during the post-war era, Peru was among the first to fall to political instability, the initial period of which begins as early as the 40’s, culminating in 1968 with a military coop led by General Juan Velasco Alvarado which shuttered the country from the globe and radically effected what was creatively possible within. It is the young germination of artists who came to find their voice under the shadow of this dictatorship with which Buh Record’s Sound Essential collection begins, the first of which is Composiciones Nativas, by Arturo Ruiz del Pozo.
Arturo Ruiz del Pozo studied at the National School of Music in Lima and at the Royal College of Music in London. Like his pedigree, his music illustrates an interesting evolutionary bridge between Peru and Europe. The generation of avant-garde composers and musicians who proceeded Pozo reacted strongly against the nationalism and indigenous sonic palette of their predecessors, and often worked within pure electronic fields that defied association. Pozo’s work illustrates a logical evolutionary shift from the concerns of the Post-War generation. Rather than utilizing pure synthesis, Composiciones Nativas also draws from sounds indigenous to Peru, instruments and otherwise. The result is a distinct and brilliant hybrid. Primarily constructed with tape loops and collages played in conjunction at variable speeds, the album unfolds into a brilliant statement of Musique Concrète. It’s a wonderful display of varying relationships between structure and source. Because many of the sounds are recognizably drawn from instruments, certain pieces and passages find the studio interventions less easy to discern, eluding to free-improvisation rather than electroacoustic process. In others, the intervention is so aggressive that any tangible relationship to the source dissolves, allowing them to appear to be purely electronic. In both cases they are compositionally striking. Over the course of the first seven tracks, Pozo weaves a disorienting world of sound which stands as a stunning counterpoint by similar efforts emerging in different geographies during the same period - Groupe de Recherches Musicales, etc. Composiciones Nativas is an absolute relations, radically expanding our understanding of the scope of global electronic practice during the 20th century, while offering a long overdue window into the histories of this music in Latin America and Peru. The first time these recordings have ever been issued on LP. This is as essential as they come.