Eliane Radigue
(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

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This article was originally written for an Italian-language book. If English is your first language and you could translate the Italian text, please contact me.
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Eliane Radigue (Paris, 1932) studiò musica elettroacustica con Pierre Schaeffer e Pierre Henry (del quale fu assistente dal 1967 al 1968) e si trasferi` negli USA nel 1970. Dopo un'esperienza con il sintetizzatore Buchla, CHRY-PTUS (1971), si dedico` al sintetizzatore ARP, del quale ammira le tonalita` pure. La sua prima registrazione di rilievo fu Biogenesis (Metamkine, 1996), risalente al 1973.

Nel 1975 si è convertita al buddismo e ha iniziato l'impresa ciclopica di comporre una trilogia di sinfonie elettroniche dedicate a un asceta medievale del Tibel, Milarepa: Songs Of Milarepa (Lovely Music, 1983), Jetsun Mila (Lovely Music, 1987) e Mila's Journey Inspired By A Dream (Lovely Music, 1987).

Radigue concepisce la musica come una forma di espressione religiosa. Ogni suo brano va pertanto "letto" come una preghiera. La modalità impiegata è quella delle lunghe radiazioni statiche di LaMonte Young, che cambiano di frequenza in maniera impercettibile, che agiscono sulla coscienza in maniera subliminale.

Kyema/ Intermediate States (XI, 1990), composto nel 1988, e` dedicato ai sei "stati intermedi" che costituiscono il continuum esistenziale di ogni essere vivente secondo il Libro Tibetano dei Morti (il cui titolo esatto è "Bardo Thodol", ovvero "la liberazione attraverso l'ascolto durante gli stati intermedi"). Si tratta di un'ora di "droni" ininterrotti in una spazialità spettrale.
Kyene è una sorta di accordatura di questo "om" colossale, che finalmente si mette in moto con Milam. Se la sua lentissima evoluzione ha ancora una parvenza di melodia, sia pur dilatata nell'arco di una dozzina di minuti, Samten, in cui sfuma, è soltanto più un ronzio molto forte.
Per effetto del cambiamento di frequenza il suono sembra scomparire in una vibrazione fievolissima e sfocata; invece si fa semplicemente più basso (e quindi cupo) e si leva piano piano nel vortice di Chikai, dentro il quale sono mescolati alla rinfusa piccoli rumori di fantasmi, un vortice che assume presto proporzioni quasi sinfoniche (Chikai rende sonoramente i suoni della decomposizione che si suppone un individuo percepisca subito prima della morte fisica ed è davvero uno dei brani più terrificanti della musica elettronica di sempre).
In Chonye il gocciolare meccanico di una nota su un fruscio subsonico induce una forma di ipnosi; rallenta fino a svanire e lascia a riempire il vuoto la radiazione cosmica di sottofondo di Sippai. Ogni movimento sfuma nel successivo, come se scivolasse da un livello a uno più basso.

Kyema e` in realta` soltanto la prima parte della monumentale Trilogie De La Mort (XI, 1998), dedicata a suo figlio, morto in un incidente stradale. Le altre due parti sono Kailasha (1991), un immaginario pellegrinaggio al monte sacro del Tibet, e Koume` (1993), che celebra la trascendenza della morte, il tema ultimo di tutta la sua opera. Entrambe sono state registrate come due lunghi flussi di suoni (di circa un'ora ciascuno).
Kailasha si apre con una marea di droni bassi e brutali che riempiono progressivamente lo spazio acustico creando una tensione esasperante. Le vibrazioni sono in continuo movimento, ma, non essendo guidate da una logica melodica o armonica, costituiscono soltanto un inquietante radiazione cosmica.
Koume` e` invece impostata su una terrificante percussivita`, che fluttua fra stati d'intensita` diametralmente opposta, ma sempre con il parossismo di un martello pneumatico. A meta` brano, questa percussivita` muta in un ronzio assordante. Si erge allora imponente un "om" che sembra spazzolare l'intero universo alla ricerca del nirvana, moltiplicandosi in violenza e in voci, sovrapponendo infinite copie di se stesso. Una sinfonia apocalittica si abbatte sul mondo degli uomini. Ma quella violenza si spegne poco a poco, fino a lasciare soltanto un sibilo sottovoce e infine una vibrazione bassissima, come se l'entropia avesse raggiunto il massimo e non fosse rimasto alcun segno di vita.

Her performances became famous for endurance pieces.

Geelriandre - Arthesis (Fringes, 2003) collects two droning pieces composed before Radigue began to focus on feedback: Geelriandre (1972), for prepared piano and synthesizer, that weaves together low-volume cricket-like noise and ticking piano notes in a highly otherworldly manner, the synth noise slowly evolving to become a galactic radio signal; and Arthesis (1973), a subminimal synthesizer rumble in motion that slowly mutates into other moving sounds until it becomes a wall clock striking the hour.

Adnos I-III (Table of the Elements, 2002), composed between 1974 and 1982, is a monumental work of meticulously assembled electronic music that implementes slowly evolving drones. As variation only occurs over a long period of time, this makes for hyper-deep listening.

L'Ile Re-Sonante (Shiiin, 2005) is a 55-minute composition dating from 2000.

The double-CD CHRY-PTUS (Schoolmap, 2007) collects four versions of CHRY-PTUS.

Lappetites' Before The Libretto (Quecksilber, 2005) was a collaboration among Elaine Radigue (France), Kaffe Matthews (Britain), Ryoko Kuwajima (Japan), and Antye Greie-Fuchs (Germany), basically a multinational laptop quartet ranging in age from the 70-year old Radigue to the Japanese teenager.

Vice Versa, etc.... (Important, 2009) is a double-disc album curated by Manu Holterbach that includes one of Radigue's earliest compositions and several "remixes" of sorts. Radigue's drones for feedback on magnetic tape Viceversa (1970) came with the instructions to be played back at any speed and at any duration and either backwards or forwards. The album contains the original Radigue-made tape and a number of variations played backwards and at different speeds.

Jouet Electronique/Elemental I (Alga Marghen, 2011) collects two early compositions for feedback, composed and recorded between 1967 and 1968: Jouet Electronique (12 minutes), that toys with purely electronic sounds and produces elegant and calm variations, and the four-movement Elemental I (11 minutes), that employs natural sounds as sources and produces much more varied and violent effects.

Transamorem - Transmortem (Important, 2011) documents a 67-minute sound installation for synthesizer from 1974. The ear-splitting hiss and the monotonous vibration destabilize each other along the way, but the difference really requires extremely "deep" listening to be appreciated.

Occam I (2011) for solo harp began a new series, continued with Occam II (2012) for violin, Occam III (2012) for birnbyne, Occam IV for viola, Occam VI for synthesizer, Occam River I for Birnbyne and viola, Occam Delta I for birnbyne violin, viola and harp, Occam Delta II for bass clarinet, viola and harp, Occam V for cello, Occam VII for voice, Occam VIII for cello, Occam IX (2013), Occam X for trumpet, Occam XI for tuba, Occam River II for violin and cello.

Feedback Works (2012) collects three sound installations: Usral (1969), Omnht (1970), and Stress Osaka (1970).
Opus 17 (2013) contains music from 1970. Psi 847 (2013), originally composed in 1972, is one of her major works, a hypnotic stream of ringing tolls that is dwarfed by a violent, shrill drone over the course of more than 70 minutes of organic unfolding.

Naldjorlak (2008) for cello, recorded at a Paris chapel in 2006, was her entirely acoustic composition. Two more parts were included in the triple-disc Naldjorlak I II III (2013). The three parts had been premiered in 2009.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Margherita Malerba)

Eliane Radigue (Paris, 1923) studied electroacoustic music with Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry (she was the assistant of the latter from 1967 to 1968) and moved to the USA in 1970. After an experience with the synthesizer Buchla, CHRY-PTUS (1971), she devoted herself to the Arp synthesizer, admiring its pure tonalities. Her first important recording was Biogenesis(Metamkine, 1996), from 1973.

In 1975 she converted to Buddhism and began the colossal endeavour of composing a trilogy of electronic symphonies dedicated to Milarepa, a Tibetan medieval ascetic.  Songs Of Milarepa (Lovely Music, 1983), Jetsun Mila(Lovely Music, 1987)  and Mila's Journey Inspired By A Dream (Lovely Music, 1987).

 

Radigue conceives of music as a form of religious expression. Every one of her tracks is intended to be “read” as a prayer. She employes the modality of La Monte Young´s long static radiations, which imperceptibly shift in frequency,  acting on consciousness on a subliminal level.

Kyema/ Intermediate States (XI, 1990), composed in 1988, is dedicated to the six intermediate states which constitute the existential continuum of every living being according to the Tibetan Book of the Dead (whose original title is Bardo Thodol, or “liberation through listening during the intermediate states”). Kyema consists of an hour-long composition of uninterrupted drones immersed in a spectral spatiality.

 

Kyene constitues some kind of tuning for this colossal “om” which is finally set in motion with Milam. Milam's extremely slow evolution still bears traces of melody, even if dilated throughout its twelve minutes, while by blending into Samten, it becomes just a very intense hum. Because of the shift of frequency, the sound seems to vanish into a faint, blurred vibration; it actually just gets lower (and therefore darker) and then slowly rises in the vortex of Chikai, where it haphazardly blends with little sounds of ghosts; soon the vortex intensifies, almost reaching symphonic dimensions (Chikai conveys the sounds of decomposition that man supposedly hears just before death; it really is one of the most terrifying tracks of electronic music of all times). In Chonye the mechanical dripping of a note over a subsonic rustle induces a hypnotic state, then slows down until it vanishes, replaced by the cosmic radiation in the background of Sippai. Every movement blends into the successive one, as though sliding from a higher level to a lower one.

 

Kyema is actually just the first part in the monumental Trilogie De La Mort(XI, 1998), which is dedicated to the artist´s son, who died in a car accident. The other two parts are Kailasha (1991), an imaginary pilgrimage to the holy mountain of Tibet, and Koume(1993), which celebrates the transcendence of death, the ultimate theme of the whole work. Both of these parts where recorded as two long fluxes of sounds, lasting about one hour each.

 

Kailasha opens with a storm of low, brutal drones, progressively filling up the acoustic space, creating an exasperating tension. The vibrations are continuosly moving, but as they don´t follow any logic of harmony or melody, they amount to a disturbing cosmic radiation.

 

 

Koume, in contrast, is based on a terrifying percussive rythm, fluctuating between states of opposite intensities, but mantaining the paroxysm of a jackhammer. Towards the middle of the track, the percussions turn into a deafening hum. Then emerges an imposing “om”, which seems to wander the whole universe in quest of Nirvana, increasing in violence and voices, overlaying infinte copies of itself. An apocalyptic symphony falls over the world of men. But that violence slowly diminishes, until what is left is just  the lowest vibration, as though entropy reached its peak and no sign of life were left.

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