The influence of Tibetan Buddhism in the work of Eliane Radigue

Université Paris-Sorbonne
Le Centre Universitaire Clignancourt
UFR de Musique et Musicologie
12, rue Francis de Croisset
75018 Paris

French electronic music composer Eliane Radigue studied electroacoustic music techniques at the Studio d'essai at the RTF, under the direction of Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry from 1957-58. In 1967-68 she worked again with Pierre Henry, as his assistant at the Studio Apsome. From 1970-71 Radigue worked for a year at the New York University School of the Arts. In 1973 she was in residence at the electronic music studios of the University of Iowa and California Institute of the Arts.

Becoming a Tibetan Buddhist in 1975, Radigue went into retreat, and stopped composing for a time. When she took up her career again in 1979, she continued to work with the Arp synthesizer which has become her signature. She composed Triptych for the Ballet Theatre de Nancy (choreography by Douglas Dunn), Adnos II and Adnos III. In 1984 Radigue received a ``bourse a la creation'' from the French Government to compose Songs of Milarepa, and a ``commande de l'état'' in 1986 for the continuation of the Milarepa cycle with Jetsun Mila.

Having been inspired by Buddhist philosophy and mythology she composed Trilogie pour la mort inspired by the Bardö-Thödol — the Tibetan book of death. Radigue's cycle is organized in three major sections which she called chapters: I. Kyema (1988), II. Kailasha (1991) and III. Koume (1993). The first chapter Kyema is dedicated to her son Yves Arman who died in the year of composition of the piece. Kyema is a description of the six different stages that constitutes ``continuous existence'' of the human being. That's why the piece is organized in six sections related to the Buddhist view of life and death: I Kyene (birth) , II Milam (dream) III Samten (meditation), IV Chikaï (death), V Chönye — (bright light), VI Sippaï (transit and coming back).

The second chapter Kailasha is not directly linked to the Tibetan philosophy but inspired by certain paintings of Albers and Escher in which space is explored in a logical and paradox way at the same time. The working title of the second chapter was Hereafter but Radigue changed her mind and decided to create a link in the title with the Mount Kailash, the holy mountain in the Himalayas, that is considered in Buddhist tradition as the place where the soul migrates from life to death.

Koume, the third chapter of this cycle that is mostly inspired by the bible and some quotations from sacred music. This chapter is divided in four sections. The first section has the title of Psalm XXXIV ``Human is only walking in appearance'', the second section is a latin quotation from a missa da requiem ``Qua resurget ex favilla judicandus homo reus''. The third section is inspired by the St Matthew Passion ``Have lightning and thunders their fury forgotten'' and the last section is imbued by the Corinthian XV ``Death where is your victory?''. Radigue explained that Koume is not an existing Tibetan word:

``C'est du tibétain de cuisine, Me c'est le feu et Kou, le corps sacré. Cela n'existe pas en tibétain.''3.1

In this presentation the development of Eliane Radigue in her Buddhist inspired period from 1984 to 1993 will be analyzed and the realization of Tibetan Buddhist concepts in Triologie pour la mort (1988-1993), Songs of Milarepa (1984), Jetsun Mila (1986) is explored. In addition it will be depicted how Radigue's aesthetic points of view were influenced and transformed through these philosophical concepts.


... tib\'etain.''3.1
GIRARD, Bernhard, Entretiens avec Eliane Radigue, Editions Aedam Musicae, 2013, p. 97. ``It's not real Tibetan Me means fire and Kou holy body. It does not exist in Tibetan.'' (personal translation).
adrian 2015-06-03