Through most of the twentieth century, Cuban composer Juan Blanco (1919–2008) was an active and collaborative creator and cultural leader in his homeland—primarily, though not exclusively, through his work in electroacoustic music. “No Cuban composer epitomized musical innovation better than Blanco, who melded new music, electronic instruments, improvisation, and the island’s unique musical heritage,” wrote Neil Leonard, artistic director of Berklee College of Music’s Interdisciplinary Arts Institute, in Computer Music Journal. Yet, as Leonard continued, “little is known about him in North America and very little has been written about him in English.”
As someone whose Cuban music collection contains mostly jazz, mambo, and son, I admit that my first close encounter with Nuestro Tiempo was akin to stumbling upon an alien spacecraft (with vintage gear percolating inside) that began communicating parts of its creator’s story to me through sound. An unexpected, weird, but enchanting experience. Produced by Leonard and Philip Blackburn, this disc offers a glimpse into the sonic world of Blanco, who composed more than 160 works. It opens with the lively Cirkus Toccata (1983), in which Guillermo Barreto (timbales) and Tata Güines (congas) improvise with tremendous vigour to Blanco’s prepared tape of equally vigorous electronic patterns made with a Roland Jupiter 8 synthesizer. Later, on Espacios V (1993), Leonard’s soprano and tenor saxophones make simple, plaintive lines and wild flowerings in Blanco’s shifting, fertile spaces.

The haunting shimmer of Ella (1983), the varying ascents and hovering moves of Loops (1991), and the evocatively murky mysteries of Galaxia M-50 (1979) create space for the imagination to roam. But the gem, for me, is the ultra-lo-fi charmer Musica para Danza (1961), Blanco’s first electronic work, which sounds like a field of crickets and other softly hooting, chirping (alien) creatures in a lush nightscape of rhythmic counterpoint. Close your eyes, and you hear—as elsewhere on this disc—familiar Cuban rhythms in a magical new form. Beam me up, Blanco.