Friday, 19 March 2010
This is a good little film based around an interview with the French electronic music composer Eliane Radigue. She has been creating works since the early 70s which unfold slowly over lengthy periods of time around extended tones, and which slowly accrete and deposit sounds in a very organic fashion. She had studied with musique concrete pioneer Pierre Schaeffer in Paris and later became an assistant to Pierre Henry, but when she began to find her own voice, it found its expression in an entirely different form. Whereas Schaeffer and Henry remained wedded to an idea of electronic music as sound collage, Radigue stripped everything back to fundamental tones (a reduction to perfect little sounds, as she puts it), which she painstakingly modulated and transformed. It was an approach very much in tune with minimalist trends in America, and she found a more welcoming reception for her music there. Interestingly, her approach predated her discovery of Tibetan Buddhism, which went on to provide the ideal philosophical framework within which she created some of her greatest work, such as the Trilogie de la Mort, Adnos and the Songs of Milarepa.
The film shows her in a domestic setting, with her ARP synthesiser taking up one wall, a Tibetan Buddhist picture above it, and a cat sprawled across her table. It is the perfect setting for a music which resonates with the thrum and pulse of life. Radigue likens listening to her music to looking at the surface of a river, a kind of immersive dream gazing. The music acts as a mental mirror, reflecting the state of the receptive listener at the time, and it can therefore be a very powerful experience. This is a very humble and non-egotistical way to regard your music - she doesn't try to impose her own interpretation but offers it up to others to discover what they may within. Radigue seems to have given up composing electronic music for the time being, concentrating instead on creating works for particular instrumentalists. She has recently finished a trilogy which goes by the title Naldjorlak, the different pieces from which are written for cello and basset-horn duo. Thanks to the re-release of much of her electronic works, however, she has been given the recognition which has long been her due.