Freddie Hubbard & İlhan Mimaroğlu: “Monodrama” (Sing Me a Song of Songmy, 1971)

İlhan Mimaroğlu is not a widely known name in electronic music and modern composition, but he was a musician of singular vision who managed to carve out a distinctive niche for himself. Born in Istanbul, he was the son of architect Mimar Kemaleddin Bey, the architect that helped define the building style of the early Turkish republic in the immediate post-Ottoman years. 

Mimaroğlu left Turkey in his twenties to study music in New York and became part of the early wave of composers to experiment openly with tape manipulation, working with Edgard Varèse and studying under Vladimir Ussachevsky. Recordings of his work are available, often on CDs where one of his pieces is compiled with work by other composers, and tracing his career reveals quickly how interested he was in making politically tinged statements with his work.

His greatest statement may have been Sing Me a Song of Songmy, the powerful anti-war document he made with the late jazz trumpeter Freddie Hubbard in 1971. Mimaroğlu was the composer and producer on the project (he produced a fair number of jazz dates, actually, including a couple of Charles Mingus LPs), and was responsible for all the synthesizer and tape manipulations. It’s an incredibly forward thinking album, and I struggle to think of another jazz album from its era that sounds like it. 

"Monodrama" is the moment of contemplative calm at the center of the album, which otherwise reflects the fury and sorrow inspired by the Vietnam War. If you like this, I encourage you to seek out the whole album (it’s available on CD paired with Hubbard’s Echoes album), and also to explore some of his longer electronic works, such as 1974’s To Kill a Sunrise, or 1975’s Tract: An Agitprop Composition for Electromagnetic Tape.  

Mimaroğlu passed away on Tuesday. He was 86.