Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Eliane Radigue - Geelriandre & Arthesis

1 Geelriandre (1972)
2 Arthesis (1973)

"Pianist Gérard Fremy, in his liner notes - in French only, so you'd better invest in a good dictionary - recalls the story of the world premiere of Eliane Radigue's "Adnos" in the Musée Galliera, Paris, on November 10th 1974, an event at which all the important music journalists of the time were present, and not one of them wrote about. A kind of anti-Rite of Spring, if you like. Fremy seems somewhat baffled at the (non) reaction, but it seems clear that the reason for their silence was that they were confronted by a music that was literally decades ahead of its time. Back in the early seventies the first musicians who worked with ARP and Moog synthesizers were more interested in sci-fi bloops and swoops, but Radigue was one of the few composers (perhaps even the only composer) who recognised and exploited its potential for extremely slow transitions of pitch and timbre. Though she'd long been associated with the French musique concrète establishment through her work with Pierre Henry, her music revealed no apparent interest in Schaefferian solfège or the jump / cut aesthetic of standard slice'n'dice electronic music. Filing her away in the minimalism drawer might be inevitable, given her long association with various American institutions and enthusiastic champions of her music such as Phill Niblock, but the mystery and magic of Radigue's music occupies a twilight zone of minimalism between the static drone world of Young, Conrad and Niblock and the gradual process aesthetic of Reich and Glass. With the former, we're presented with great blocks of sound that occupy the listening space, redefining our perceptions of its architecture - the music itself is unchanging (until the often abrupt transition to the next drone), but we are free to explore its inner nuances; with the latter, once the process is set up and loaded, to quote Reich, it's more a question of following its gradual development, as musical material changes either incrementally (Glass's linear additive and Reich's later block additive processes) or at a regular rate (Reich's phase pieces). Radigue's elusive music sits squarely between the two perceptual worlds - it is forever on the move, albeit very slowly (try loading one of her pieces into some music software and speeding it up fivefold, and you'll be surprised), but constructed so meticulously that it somehow slips out of time: change is perceived as having taken place rather than taking place. However many times you listen - and this is music you will return to on many occasions - you'll probably never quite figure out how she did it.
The release (at last!) of these two works dating from 1972 and 1973 is another major event in the (re)discovery of Radigue's music, after Table Of The Elements' landmark triple CD issue of "Adnos" last year. "Geelriandre" features Fremy on piano, gently inserting beautifully poised sonorities into Radigue's seamless textures - John Tilbury's work with AMM comes inevitably to mind. Originally premiered in Paris in 1972, this particular recording was made in Amsterdam's Stedelijk Museum seven years later, and a few distant Dutch hacking coughs unfortunately manage to make themselves heard. "Arthesis", realised on a Moog synthesizer during Radigue's residency at the University of Iowa in 1973, is heard here in a recording of its world premiere in Los Angeles' Theatre Vanguard that year. It's utterly useless to describe either of these works: they simply must be heard to be believed. French musician and Metamkine label boss Jérôme Noetinger, who released Radigue's "Biogenesis" on his Cinéma Pour L'Oreille Collection a while back, has indicated that there remain several other pieces her early 1970s music that have so far not been released. It surely is only a matter of time: the world might not have been ready for "Adnos" in 1974, but thirty years later, Eliane Radigue's time has come. Anyone who seriously claims to be interested in new music simply cannot afford to pass this by. " (Dan Warburton for Paris Transatlantic Magazine, issue of July 2003, via)

On a related note, I was unaware of the fact that she is part of a girlgroup (;p) called "The Lappetites", or as some people prefer to call it, a "forum, a meeting place, a concept within which to make and exchange new music via digital and sonic linking games in remote and local places within a multispeaker playground." Other members include Antye Greie who some of you might know from her collaboration (under the pseudonym of AGF) with Finnish electronic musician and partner Vladislav Delay; English live sampling performer and violinist Kaffe Matthews; and London-based artist Ryoko Kuwajima who runs the Melange label for videoart and experimental electronic music.


Anonymous said...

sounds interesting in a tod dockstader sort of way (i'm about a million miles out , aren't i)? tere's nothing like jumping the gun

Jessica said...

embarrassingly enough, i didn't have one iota of knowledge about Tod Dockstader until now; is he worth investing some research into, then?

RonanM said...

Radigue's music is wonderful. I hadn't heard this album, but listened to it twice already - once while slowly sealing a tiled floor and again while in bed, both ideal activities for this sort of music. Just wonderful. On the strength of this, I've invested in the Lappetites album - Many thanks Jessica!

Jessica said...

Ronan, feel free to report about the Lappetites record once you've listened to it.
Also, I figure Eliane's music could be useful in triggering lucidity or at least enhance the intensity of one's dreams. Alas, the battery of my mp3 player has worn off so badly by now that it rarely exceeds six hours of durability, heh.

Anonymous said...

hi jessica
try http://dockstader.info/biography.php
unofficial site where you can hear the music and make up your own mind.i like some but not all of his stuff.Used to have one of his early owl records lps but magically disappeared.Is there an lp graveyard somewhere?

RonanM said...

Well, yesterday evening's leisure was mostly spent watching, listening and enjoying Angel Egg. The sound track is at least half the enjoyment! Wonderful to live in a world where people can create such beautiful things.

The Lappetites - have only listened to the first few tracks, but it's wonderful - combining the really retro sixties computer-music sounds of Radigue with a light, whimsical touch - not what I expected.

Le SoT said...

Merci beaucoup Jessica, great blog !

maready said...

Jessica --- thank you very much for your advocacy of Eliane Radigue ... I have now been able to catch up with her work, having never actually lais eyes on any physical CDs or LPs. Also, I wanted to let you know that I finally got around to downloading "La Cicatrice Interieure" and left my thank-yous at the original post.

I really do want to encourage you to keep this blog going --- so many friends I know have gotten tired and made their blogs disappear, which is really sad. Yours is one of the very finest sharing blogs I have seen, both for your choices and your commentary. And your readers leave such polite and interesting comments! Very unusual ... please keep up the good work!

maready said...

PS: RE the Lappelites --- yes, there was recently an interesting article in the Wire magazine about them ... I had heard of Radigue before from time to time, but the women in the group, all of them about one third of Ms. Radigue's age, convinced me that her work was very important to hear ... and luckily for me you had already pulled some of her works together and placed them in context with your words.

Merci, grazie and danke schoen (is that right?)

I said...

thanks! really into her lately... it's been a long time since i've stopped by here, nice to see you're still around.