A composer writes an orchestral piece by inviting every member of the ensemble to visit her at home, one-by-one, to devise their parts collaboratively. This is how Eliane Radigue makes music: slow, exacting, verbal, personal. In many ways her work is a paradox. She writes drone music that dances. It is simple and rich, spacious and detailed, unhurried and full of movement, spiritual and non-didactic, narrative and abstract. Over the past 50 years she has honed a uniquely concentrated creative practice in order to access an expansive realm of partials and subharmonics — “sounds within the sound,” she calls them. She works instinctively, and her instinct has always drawn her to slowness and subtle modulations, yet she demands from her performers a kind of precision that is physically and mentally virtuosic. She claims with a shrug that her technique boils down to “fade in, fade out, cross fade,” whether in her early long-form synthesiser works or the acoustic pieces she’s been writing for the past decade. Yet it’s the complex, iridescent interior expanses of her music that achieve exquisite lift-off.
Before I left my home of 10 years in Austin, TX and moved to Ithaca, NY, a friend asked me, “Is your work influenced by your surroundings?” I replied, “I don’t think so but I’ve lived in the same place for ten years. Ask me again in six months.” It was a few months later that I visited Buttermilk Falls State Park, a breathtaking system of waterfalls near Ithaca’s southern border, and immediately declared, “I must record this!” While I did find the sound of the waterfalls (barely distinct from white noise) to be powerful and compelling, I was particularly struck by the way adjacent waterfalls – some of them quite loud – were sonically discrete from one another. Each waterfall would become inaudible within a few feet of walking toward the next, making it possible to create my own spontaneous sound collage by choosing the direction and speed I walked toward and away from each subsequent waterfall. I attempted to recreate this multi-sensory experience by recording my composed walk up the gorge, with an awareness that my recording could suggest but not replicate the feeling of actually being in the park. Not long after that, I suddenly realized that I was transgender while attending an indie pop music festival in New York City.