On 1 October, Rhodri Davies and Helene Breschand will perform the world premiere of Eliane Radigue’s new work for two harps, in an evening devoted to her music. It is the latest in a line of mesmerising, meditative works created in collaboration with specially-chosen musicians by the pioneering French composer.
Born in Paris in 1932, Radigue spent decades exploring musique concrete, cutting and splicing enormous reels of magnetic tape. In the Sixties she was part of the early Minimalist community in New York, including Tenney, Reich and Glass. Back in France in the 1970s, she transferred her medium to Buchlar and ARP synthesizers, creating such visionary epics as Trilogie de la mort.
At the dawn of the new Millenium, she abandoned electronics, and began writing a series of pieces for acoustic instruments, launching the Occam series in 2008. Each new piece begins with her sitting down with a performer and talking about water. Interviewed by Kate Molleson in her Sound with Sound, she describes the collaborative process: ‘I like musicians to choose an image from his or her own country: we all have a special place associated with water. Who hasn’t meditated in front of an ocean, a river or waterfall?’ She agrees with her performer on an image and they write it down to create a structure, ‘a living score’. The resulting piece is only for that musician, and must only be passed on orally from that player to another, not by a written score. She has said of these works, ‘There are no lyrics, but each piece tells deep stories.’
Perhaps the key to unlocking Radigue’s elusive, shimmering art lies in its name, Occam, from the Medieval monk William of Ockham, who argued that in the face of multiple options, the simplest choice is usually the best.
‘‘I like musicians to choose an image from his or her own country: we all have a special place associated with water. Who hasn’t meditated in front of an ocean, a river or waterfall?’’
This event is supported by the Ambache Charitable Trust: raising the profile of music by women.