Awesome double LP compiling Richard Maxfield early electronic pieces, ultra limited edition of just 185 copies.
Writing in his book Ocean of Sound some years ago, David Toop observed: “If Richard Maxfield had not committed suicide in 1969, and if his electronic music pieces were not so difficult to find or to hear, then our idea of how music has changed and opened out during the past thirty-five years might be very different.” Toop penned those remarks back in 1994; and, even at this much later date, the thought still holds true. Before jumping to his death from a hotel window ledge in Los Angeles at the age of 42, Maxfield could be considered one the chief pioneers of electronic music on American shores.
Despite the archival cornucopia that it offers, Reissue Culture has had its share of oversights, and Maxfield has been one of them. Only a few of his compositions have seen digital reissue over the years, with works like the three-minute “Amazing Grace” or 1963’s “Pastoral Symphony” turning up on a few scattered compilations. Depending on which account you go with, when he left New York for the West Coast, Maxfield entrusted his tapes to artists Walter De Maria; who passed them along to La Monte Young, who in turn reputedly entrusted them to the Dia Arts Foundation.
Terry Riley, being interviewed in the course of a game of “Invisible Jukebox” in The Wire back in 1999 shed some light on Maxfield’s neglected legacy. Maxfield, he asserted, was one of the most brilliant yechnicians in American electronic music. Aside from reputedly having built much of his own equipment, Maxfield was also reputedly something of a wizard at tape-splicing — stoically patient, exacting and precise when it came to the task of taking things apart and putting them together viz the yarns and reels of magnetic tape. La Monte Young similarly testified to the artist’s skills:
“He was an incredible electronic music teacher and master engineer. I used to go up to his mixing studio when he worked at Westminster Records in 1960-61 and observe him editing those old reel-to-reel tapes. He was the most amazingly adept tape handler I have ever seen. He worked so fast his hands and the tape were a constant blur… He really understood electronics; he was very creative and experimental. He taught electronics and composition at the highest level.”