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Electroacoustic pioneer Eliane Radigue’s Path rough Sound and Spirit. When the young pianist and composer EÌliane Radigue turned on the radio in her home in Nice, France, sounds emanated from its speakers unlike any she had yet encountered. They were the creation of Pierre Schaeffer, the founder of the musique concreÌ€te move- ment that would revolutionize contemporary music.

Schaeffer used recorded sounds as his instrument””capturing them directly and returning them to the world directly””in the creation of new music. In one of his signature works, Etude aux chemins de fer, or Railroad Study, Schaeffer went to a train station in the 17th Arrondisement in Paris with a tape recorder and captured the sounds around.

When the young pianist and composer EÌliane Radigue turned on the radio in her home in Nice, France, sounds emanated from its speakers unlike any she had yet encountered. They were the creation of Pierre Schaeffer, the founder of the musique concreÌ€te move- ment that would revolutionize contemporary music.

Schaeffer used recorded sounds as his instrument””capturing them directly and returning them to the world directly””in the creation of new music. In one of his signature works, Etude aux chemins de fer, or Railroad Study, Schaeffer went to a train station in the 17th Arrondisement in Paris with a tape recorder and captured the sounds around. When the young pianist and composer EÌliane Radigue turned on the radio in her home in Nice, France, sounds emanated from its speakers unlike any she had yet encountered. They were the creation of Pierre Schaeffer, the founder of the musique concreÌ€te move- ment that would revolutionize contemporary music. Schaeffer used recorded sounds as his instrument””capturing them directly and returning them to the world directly””in the creation of new music. In one of his signature works, Etude aux chemins de fer, or Railroad Study, Schaeffer went to a train station in the 17th Arrondisement in Paris with a tape recorder and captured the sounds around

him: the chuff of steam engines, full-throated whistles, the hiss of brakes. He then copied, cut, and pasted those sounds together into a composition that made EÌliane Radigue stop in her tracks. “That’s it.” Recalling the moment, she says, “It became clear that exploring this music would become my path.”

Radigue had always been interested in sound. Born in Paris in 1932, she studied piano as a child, and later expl ored choral singing as well as the harp and composition at the Conservatoire.* “I was raised on classical music,” she told us earlier this year from her home in Paris. “It is part of my background.

Radigue had always been interested in sound. Born in Paris in 1932, she studied piano as a child, and later expl ored choral singing as well as the harp and composition at the Conservatoire.* “I was raised on classical music,” she told us earlier this year from her home in Paris. “It is part of my background.
sound. With her synthesizer of choice, she cre- ated drone-based sounds and deeply layered compositions that reveal themselves slowly and were more akin to the minimalist compo- sitions of Steve Reich and Phillip Glass, with whom she became friends in New York, than to those by her musique concrète forebears.

In 1975, after a performance of the rst part of Radigue’s trilogy Adnos at Mills College in northern California, three young French people came up to her and said, “Do you know it is not you doing the music?” The complex and pointed statement confused and intrigued her. The trio were disciples of the Buddhist teacher Kunga Rinpoche, and, along with their cryptic wisdom, they gave Radigue the address of Karma Kagyu, a Tibetan Buddhist center in Paris. “When I returned home I went there im- mediately, and I have never looked back.”

Spirituality has always been an important aspect of Radigue’s life. She grew up Christian””at one point even wanting to become a nun””and later undertook the study of Hinduism. “There were always signs in my life pointing me toward some direction,” she says. After her visit to Karma Kagyu, she became a devoted student of Buddhism, and as her practice deepened, she felt she need- ed to stop making music: “I cannot do two things at once. I need to be fully into it. While I still stayed a bit connected to my music, my life was mostly dedicated to going to the Dordogne with my master, Pawo Rinpoche.”

Though Buddhism took her away from music, it was Buddhism that brought her back. She was inspired by the words of the venerated eleventh-century Tibetan Buddhist poet-saint- yogi Jetsun Milarepa. She went to her master in deference to ask if she could make a piece based on this historic gure. His response: “Some karmas need to be lived.”

“I am doing the same music now, but with instrumentalists, which allows for more subtlety, it is more delicate, and allows me the great pleasure of sharing,” Radigue says. “All my life I had worked alone, no assistant, except for my cat, which would purr when satis ed, so working with others has made me extremely happy.”

An encouraged Radigue immersed herself in the project, which became Les Chants de Milarepa, or Songs of Milarepa. The record- ing included the voices of composer Robert Ashley and Radigue’s spiritual teacher Lama Kunga Rinpoche. Her return to music was not as radical as one might assume. She feels she ended up composing “the same music I was doing before encountering Buddhism.” There was no before and after; the sounds and textures were consistent.

“As is often the case when I start something,” she says, “I thought I might make the Songs of Milarepa for the rest of my life.” Ultimately she determined that “after ve, I felt that was enough.” But it was not the end of her inspired output. After Les Chants de Milarepa she composed Jetsun Mila, again inspired by the great Buddhist poet. This was followed by Trilogie de la Mort (Kyema, Kailasha, and Koume), profound and deeply felt pieces based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead that served as re ections on the tragic loss of her son at age 34 from a car accident and the death of her beloved master Kunga Rinpoche.

Radigue made her last composition on the ARP in 2005. Today she works directly with musicians such as cellist Charles Curtis, for whom she composed Naldjorlack, a two-and- a-half hour work in three movements. As she says, she composes for the instrumentalist and not the instrument. There is no score. Nothing is written down. The sounds were created during meetings between Radigue and Curtis, until she felt the work was com- plete. The piece is solely for him. If, one day, he wants to teach it to a student, he will pass down the music the same way Radigue gave it to him, through voice and sound only. In many ways it resembles the Buddhist oral tradition of passing down knowledge from master to disciple.


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