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Eliane Radigue - Jetsun Mila

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Artist: Eliane Radigue

Album: Jetsun Mila

Label: Lovely

Review date: Jul. 26, 2007

French electronic composer Eliane Radigue settled on minimally evolving drones as the essential material of her life’s work in the late ’60s, but she didn’t immediately deal with the spiritual implication of her music. According to an interview with Dan Warburton in The Wire, three music students approached her after a concert at Mills College and told her “You do realize it’s not you creating your music.” This made sense both musically and experientially; her music instills a meditative state of mind, and she already felt before the encounter that she was following sound and trying to do its bidding rather than telling it what to do.

The encounter led her to an extended sabbatical devoted to Buddhist scriptural study, which subsequently informed her compositions. Jetsun Mila, which was realized in 1986, was her second piece to deal directly with such themes. Named for an 11th century Tibetan yogi, its nine sections unfold over 84 minutes, which are laid across two CDs (originally two sides of a cassette) and represent the story of his life.

The music’s narrative aspect isn’t terribly obvious; nothing is when music unfolds at the patient pace that Radigue favors. But it makes sense of the contrary polyphony – quite unusual in Radigue’s work – that recurs during the piece. About halfway through disc one, a series of low groans rake across the music’s surface, perhaps corresponding to Part Two’s “Misdeeds”; it’s hard to say for sure, since the album’s producers did not see fit to index either disc’s single track. About halfway through disc two the sound rises to a dense blast, evocative of chanting monks and trumpets blasting their sounds off the distant mountainside; a light curtain of hiss unfurls and writhes above the music as the pitches descend in “Retreat.”

The range of timbres and pitches at work here represents another break from Radigue’s oeuvre; as usual, she used only an ARP synthesizer with the keyboard unplugged, the better for her to work directly upon the filters, to coax shape from sound. But the effect of her music is the same; time stops, sound surrounds, and when it’s done, you’re changed.

By Bill Meyer

Other Reviews of Eliane Radigue

Transamorem – Transmortem

Adnos I-III


Vice Versa / Triptych


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