EVERYTHING SHOULD BE UNDER THE SUN...
We have only one WORLD yet! If we destroy it, where else will we go?
Winter 2002: 8th issue - **2nd Anniversary**

ILHAN MIMAROGLU
Lost And Found

by Mehmet DEDE

 

"Donelim koyumuze ve yasanmazligimiza" (Let's go back to our village and our lifelessness) wrote Ilhan Mimaroglu in one of his articles. He didn't return to Istanbul and his new autobiographical book is anything but lifeless. This year will see a series of performance, conference and exhibitions in Istanbul to celebrate his artistic career spanning 75 years. We salute Ilhan Mimaroglu with the following interview that was conceived and realized in New York at the turn of 2001.

Mimaroglu's recent autobiographical book (backcover):
" I've Born, I've Saw, I've Passed, I've Gone."
Ilhan MIMAROGLU (photo by David Gahr)



7REWIND






Midtown Manhattan. To many people it epitomizes what New York is all about with its lavish shopping stores, larger-than-life Broadway musicals, astral tower buildings and surreal Times Square. On this chilly pre-Christmas day, notwithtstanding all the shopping frenzy, I make my way to the Western side of the City, the district awkwardly called Hell's Kitchen. I'm meeting Ilhan Mimaroglu, the eccentric personality with a handful of different business cards: Mimaroglu the composer, Mimaroglu the writer, Mimaroglu the radio program producer, Mimaroglu the photographer.

Let's get one thing straight from the start: I'm not here to interview him. He objects one-on-one interviews, and rightly so, for her wants his comments to be published as is. Therefore, he only accepts written interviews. I had heard about his modus operandi before, so tonight I'm only taking my distilled prejudices with me. This is a pre-arranged meeting through a mutual friend, a kind of a meet-n-greet, though not with your average rock star. To meet Mimaroglu, someone who strayed away from conventional thinking, is a treat for me, to say the least.

He's not at home. His wife Gungor Hanim ushers us into her studio and serves us tea and gorgeous pistachio imported from Turkey. The view is breathtaking. In the midst of high rises decorated with sporadic lights that are at par with background props for late night shows, I feel like I'm in a movie or on the set of the David Letterman Show for this matter. The bell rings, Mimaroglu arrives. He's sporting navy blue All Star Converses that strike me at once. Gungor Hanim briefly introduces us. He takes out his Lucky Strike and lights a cigarette, one of his delights, perhaps not so Turkish. As the ethereal smoke of his cigarette joins our conversation, so does his presence.

Mimaroglu was born in 1926, during the turbulent yet soaring years that marked the beginning of the young Turkish Republic founded in 1923. He studied at the prestigious Lycee of Galatasaray and later attended law school in Ankara. He began his career as a radio program producer and writer/critic in 1945. He was first invited to New York in 1955 by the Rockefeller Foundation and took classes at Columbia, primarily in musicology under Paul Henry Lang and Douglas Moore. A few years later he returned to New York to establish residence and further his studies in electronic music at the Columbia - Princeton Electronic Music Center. Throughout his career in electronic, he worked with world famous composers Edgar Varese and Vladimir Ussachevsky, whom he cites as his mentor. He worked at public radio WBAI New York for seven years producing electronic music programs with a political and social twist. He is also recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship.

We go over the questions, he picks on a few and contemplates. I am beginning to think this interview will not happen. Fortunately, he says he'll send in his answers. Not too long thereafter I get them. As I look at his responses I feel like I have found something I lost, but strangely never had.



Photography by Ilhan MIMAROGLU, New York City



4PLAY


- You were educated at Galatasaray and went to college in Ankara. Can you take a step back in time and describe us the kaleidoscopic environment of the day and your circle of friends?
- A step back in time will not lead me to my days in Ankara. Therefore memory has to serve to write a history book on a period of nearly fifteen years of my life in that city, a project I am not ready or willing to undertake at this time, regardless of the fact that I do not own a kaleidoscope. As to my friends (and acquaintances) there, their names would read like a list of missing persons.


- Your latest album Outstanding Warrants contains early electronic sounds that sound dated in today's age of technology. Haven't you had a chance to record these compositions with more refined/updated sounds or even with an orchestra, which would have been very expressive and expansive?
- I have dated them, so they are dated. If they also sound dated, then I am in good company. Those with ears that want "more refined/updated sounds" will just have to walk away. Doing them again with an orchestra? That would be like asking a painter to notate his paintings for orchestral performances.


- What kind of reactions did you get for Outstanding Warrants?
- The reaction I got for Outstanding Warrants consists mostly of well-intentioned, encomiastic reviews, the majority of which written quite badly.


- What is your theory on music? How do you conceive your bedrock of listeners?
-
There have been (and still are) numerous theorists of music. I have no intention of joining them. Bedrock' meaning 'lowest or bottom level,' I do not find anybody there.


- Do you think 'musique concrete' is still relevant as it was in the 50s and 60s?
-
Musique concrete and electronic music are one and the same thing. Its relevance is for those who are in the know.


- Are you catching up with the latest developments in music, more specifically a variety of derivatives of modern electronic music such as IDM (Intelligent Dance Music) and Ambient whose creators cite Stockhausen, Cage and Glass as their influence?

- Leaving aside very many ballet scores of the past and the present (inclusive of electronic music for dance), which are indeed intelligent in various degrees, what I have been hearing all along in the field of dance music can be termed as MDM, moronic dance music, that is. As such, "intelligent dance music" is a typical contradiction in terms and its relevance to electronic music is beyond my comprehension.

Regarding the matter of pronouncing the names of those three composers in one breath, if I had tried to do that I would suffocate and spit out Philip Glass.


- Where do you see electronic music in 50 years time?

- Having no oracular pretensions, I do not try to see the future of electronic music.


- Are the any composers or albums that have influenced you?

- I wanted to steal from this composer or that, from this album or that, but, as the Turkish saying goes, he who steals a minaret must prepare a suitable cover for it. The task was too much for me, so I gave up.


- Are there any new generation Turkish composers that have impressed you?

- I had the occasion of hearing the music of Tolga Tuzun and was most favorably impressed.

"What I have been hearing all along in the field of dance music can be termed as MDM,
moronic dance music, that is."



;
PAUSE

Mimaroglu doesn't speak so often, it seems his subtle cynicism silently speaks instead. When he does, his subdued voice fills the space, roaming in the form of perforated bubbles, while the repercussions echo in our heads. Gradually, we metamorphose into the thick residues of his MO.

When explained to him that this interview will be published on the Internet he gets uncomfortable. "That's a problem," he says emphatically. He dislikes the Internet claiming that it holds too much information and that most of them are in books already. He points out that if you misspell a web site address that you will not be taken to that site, whereas snail mail with a slightly misspelled address still makes it to the right place. He eventually agrees, and that's how this lost and found interview surfaces.

 

8 FAST FORWARD

- You also worked as a producer at Atlantic Records. Could you tell us more about your work there and your relationship with the Ertegun brothers?
- I spent nearly thirty years of my life at Atlantic. To tell about it calls for another history book, again a project I cannot undertake. In short, I recall my years at Atlantic most positively, inclusive of my work with Nesuhi Ertegun in particular, and also with Ahmet Ertegun.


- When did you found Finnader Records? What was your goal and what is its status today?

- It was in the early seventies that I started Finnader Records with an LP of my electronic music, and continued throughout the years, primarily with recordings of contemporary compositions (including my own), with a view also to offer to the public performers who should be better known, among which Turkish pianists Idil Biret and Meral Guneyman. Finnader does not exist today.


- How many records have you released so far? Are they still available?

- Listing all the LP's and CD's of my music is to no avail, because they are not available, except the last one, Outstanding Warrants CD, which can be ordered directly from Southport, 3501 N.Southport, Chicago, IL 60657.

"One thing I learned at Law School was that I would obey only laws I could have made myself.
This applies to my music, too."



- You have been using three different mediums for your creative output. Visually your photographic work, sonically your electronic compositions, and literally your writings. What was the drive behind these three different avenues of creation?

- Everybody does something and many do more than one thing. Beyond that, I never gave any thought to what I am doing.


- What is your starting point when you want to give your creative output a tangible form?

- Simply to start, then continue, and finally conclude.


- Have you ever thought of exhibiting or publishing your graffiti photographs?
- Projects of exhibiting my photographs never materialized. As to publishing them, a book is supposed to come out in Istanbul within a few months.


- Can you tell us how long it took you to write your new biographical book?

- Having overlooked to take notes when writing my new biographical (actually autobiographical) book, I cannot say how long it took me to write it, nor when I started writing it. Same goes for my two previous books in similar veins. They all are not entirely retrospective, but become so once what's not retrospective is written. That is, once the day it is written becomes a day past.

- You majored in law. How would you describe the interplay between law and music (provided there is one)?
- One thing I learned at Law School was that I would obey only laws I could have made myself. This applies to my music, too.


- You shared the same art circle with names like Laurie Anderson and Nam June Paik in the 70s. Are you still in touch with them? What do you think of the art world vs. the music world?

- In the mid-seventies a French painter, Jean Dupuy (another missing person today) organized in Greenwhich Village a series of events he called Grommets, consisting of "simultaneous art performances." To one of the events I contributed an electronic composition. Today I am not in contact with the artists you named or the others who participated in the said events.

As to your question on "art world vs. music world," while the two worlds are not "versus," i.e. against each other, there seems to be a virtual impasse between them.


<
STOP

"Utopians, including myself, are certainly not under control."



9
REPLAY


- When did you settle down in New York? What was the situation like then in Turkey?

- I first came to New York in 1955 on a Rockefeller Fellowship, then in 1959 on my own to settle down here permanently. Although, previously, I had never thought of living in any country other than my own, it was the Menderes years in Turkey and things were getting worse and worse. Menderes is no more, but the downward trend continues.


- Would you agree with some people that you have a very pessimistic point of view?
- The world we are living in is like a ship sinking in a bottomless sea. This is not a pessimistic viewpoint, but only an observation of a basic fact.


- How do you feel about the most recent events and the disclosure of Islam extremism seen from the eyes of the Western media?
- Whether it is Islam or any other, all religions are domains of the devil.


- Once you've stated that your existence is justified having written Utopia. Can you elaborate on that? Ursula LeGuin believes "Utopians are under control." What is your take on the notion of Utopia?

- Having written about an ideal society the way I conceive it justifies my existence more than anything else I did. Utopians, including myself, are certainly not under control. If they are, then by whom? Who's afraid of a Utopian? Furthermore, any Utopia is unrealizable and that's why it is called Utopia. Incidentally, who is Ursula LeGuin? *


- What is it that you dislike about the Internet? What do you think of the fact that you are an electronic music composer and the medium itself is electronic?
- In this world of cyberspace calamity, we now have Khyber Pass calamity over again.

Your question urged me to write a book on computers. It will be a funny book and I shall not have to try to be funny. All I have to do will be to transfer information from any computer book or dictionary. For instance, what does this mean?

CI:-=


It means "I'm Charlie Chaplin". No, I'm not joking. Just look it up. Internet? Isn't that what's amidst the worldwide spider webs?


- - - - -


* Who is Ursula LeGuin?

Science-fiction and fantasy novel writer Ursula LeGuin, (born in Berkeley, CA in 1929) have won a wide audience, especially in the late 60s and early 70s with truly amazing novels such as "The Left Hand Of Darkness", "The Dispossessed", "The Earthsea Trilogy" and "The Lathe Of Heaven". In her science fiction she examines contemporary problems by restating them in terms of other imagined worlds, such as the possibility for perfect anarchic society and life in an androgynous world. LeGuin is also the author of a fantasy series for children has received many awards, including the Boston Globe-Hornbook and the National Book Award.



s
EJECT



I owe a debt of gratitude to Mrs. Gungor Mimaroglu and Ms. Bircan Unver, without whose help this interview would have not have happened.
This issue dedicated to such distinguished poet & composer as (alphabetical order):
Nazim HIKMET & Ilhan MIMAROGLU

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