Eliane Radigue

Music only exists through our ability to grasp it

Alongside Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry, then alone with her favourite synthesiser, the composer Éliane Radigue has produced a work that is dulcet, organic and deeply human. An huge corpus that makes her one of the most influential pioneers of electroacoustic music.

Published on 15/09/2020

2 min

When Éliane Radigue heard Pierre Schaeffer‘s L'étude aux chemins de fer (Railway Study) on the radio, it was a revelation. She therefore spent several years between the Studio d'essai in Paris and her home on the Côte d'Azur. In the shadow of the two Pierres – Schaeffer and Henry – she manipulated magnetic tape and learnt to master the tape feedback technique. At the start of the 1970, Éliane Radigue went to New York where she became emancipated with compositions such as Geelriandre (1972), Adnos (1974-1982) and Les Chants de Milarepa (1983). It was in the United States that she found the ARP 2500 synthesiser, which she’d use for most of her works, before turning to more instrumental work at the beginning of the first decade of the 21st century. As such she worked with the cellist Charles Curtis on the piece Naldjorlak I (2005) and the harpist Rhodri Davies on the Occamcycle in 2011.

Éliane Radigue’s original intuition is that each sound contains its own musicality and is therefore quickly distinguished from the principles Pierre Schaeffer standardised. A piece like Geelriandre was therefore only played by the pianist Gérard Frémy with whom it had been conceived. In her first works, like Jouet Électronique (1967) and Elemental (1968), she made sound vibrate and drew it out to infinity. It was by using the ARP 2500 that she achieved total freedom and provided several of her most beautiful pieces. Contemplative, her music also became more corporeal, searching for the mystery of life that animates each sound movement. A work that would be fulfilled in Trilogie de la mort (1988-1993), a cycle thanks to which she processed the death of her son Yves.

A solitary creator, concentrated on her vision and not caring about honours, Éliane Radigue stayed on the edge for a long time before a new generation of artists claimed her influence and brought her work back into the spotlight. Renowned contemporary musicians such as Kasper Toeplitz (Elemental II, in 2004), Charles Curtis (Naldjorlak I, 2005) or Carol Robinson (Naldjorlak II, 2007) ask her to work on projects with them. Her music is played around the world, from New York to London, via the Fondation Cartier in Paris. She even received the recognition of her peers in 2006 through the prestigious Ars Electronica prize, for her composition L'île Re-sonante.

  • 1950


    Éliane Radigue left Paris to join her husband Arman, in Nice. There she spent time with Yves Klein, Ben and other members of the active “école de Nice”.

  • 1955


    She joined the Pierre Schaeffer’s Studio d'essai, in Paris, as an assistant.

  • 1967


    Divorced, she returned to Paris to work with Pierre Henry. She assisted him on L'Apocalypse de Jean and composed her first works.

  • 1970


    The composer moved to New York where she mixed with John Cage, Philipp Glass and Steve Reich. She won respect for the first time.

  • 1988


    She produced “Kyema” the first movement in the La Trilogie de la mort, adaptation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Her son Yves died the year after.

  • 2011


    Eliane Radigue started Occam, an infinite cycle and therefore “unfinishable” according to her. To date, more than fifty of her prices have been produced.

Institut français and the artist

A tribute was paid to Eliane Radigue at the Wiener Festwochen with the musicians of the Onceim (Vienna Festival) in 2020

L'institut français, LAB