Behind the Ears: Eliane Radigue

Eliane Radigue in 1955 (photo: Arman)

Eliane Radigue in 1955 (photo: Arman)

Behind The Ears: Eliane Radigue

by John Kieffer

These days we are increasingly used to having all kinds of art, music and theatre described as immersive. Too often though, immersion just means “a lot going on” or being “surrounded by something”.  It is still very rare however to come across music that is truly transformative – something that changes you in the manner of James Turrell’s extraordinary “behind the eyes” lightworks such as Bindu Shards at the Gagosian last year. Eliane Radigue’s music is of course not literally the aural equivalent of artists like Turrell but if you surrender to her drone based minimalism you go to somewhere that is certainly ‘no place’ and almost ‘no mind.'  Radigue’s music is subtle. Like Turrell’s art, it does not overwhelm you with complexity but instead finds its power in purity and craft.

Since the 1960s Eliane Radigue (born Paris, 1932) has created a powerful and individual body of work. She studied with electronic music pioneers Pierre Henry and Pierre Schaeffer and has been likened to American minimalists Terry Riley, La Monte Young, Steve Reich and Philip Glass, but her music has taken a singular and solitary path, unfettered by associations with particular schools and trends and strongly informed by the Tibetan Buddhism that she discovered in the 1970s.

She is now celebrated within electronic music circles as a true innovator, pioneer and musical visionary. Yet her music communicates a sublime spiritual power that can touch people far beyond those who are currently acquainted with her work. Emmanuel Holterbach, Eliane Radigue’s assistant and expert on her work, has described the experience of listening to her music:

“There is neither melodic movement or meter in Eliane Radigue's music. But paradoxically, if listeners abandon themselves to listening, they will discover in apparently static sounds beautiful polyrhythmic structures and beat games, in addition to hypnotic iridescences in the arabesques of the harmonics. These are inherent phenomena in the interactions between the ongoing sounds. A celestial dance of frequencies is played for us to witness.

“During each period of her work, Eliane Radigue has offered sumptuous works created with minimal apparatus, revealing extraordinary interior landscapes: celestial harvests, shimmering light through crystalline waterfalls, slow and heavy waves in oceans of sand, blood rivers, titanic organic mechanics, multitudes of comets in infinite skies, tectonic roarings, singings of atmospheric stratums... To suggest so much with so little is the mark of an infinitely breathing poetic lyricism, this is an extraordinary characteristic of Eliane Radigue's music.”

John Kieffer is creative director of Sound and Music, producers of the series Triptych: The Music of Eliane Radigue, which is at various London venues 12 – 26 June 2011. For more information, see

In this project

Event information and booking

Triptych features events across multiple venues. The launch and all concerts start at 7.30pm.

Launch Event

13 June: Cafe Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, London, E8 3DL
Emmanuel Holterbach, Eliane Radigue’s assistant and expert on her music, introduces her work.
This event is FREE and unticketed.

Eliane Radigue's Work With Instrumentalists

14 June: Christ Church Spitalfields, Commercial Street, London E1 6LY
Kasper T Toeplitz and The Lappetites each perform versions of Elemental II and Rhodri Davies gives the world premiere of Occam I for solo harp. Presented as part of Spitalfields Music Summer Festival.
Find out more and book tickets

21 June: Christ Church Spitalfields, Commercial Street, London E1 6LY
A complete performance of the monumental three-hour trilogy Naldjorlak, performed by Charles Curtis (cello), Carol Robinson and Bruno Martinez (basset horns). Presented as part of Spitalfields Music Summer Festival.
Find out more and book tickets

Eliane Radigue's Electronic Music

15 - 25 June: St Stephen Walbrook, 39 Walbrook, London EC4N 8BN
An eight-evening retrospective of Radigue’s classic electronic works

Wed 15 June: Trilogie de la Mort I - Kyema
Thu 16 June: Trilogie de la Mort II - Kailasha
Fri 17 June: Trilogie de la Mort III - Koumé
Mon 20 June: Psi 847
Wed 22 June: Early Feedback and Loop Works
Thu 23 June: Jetsun Mila
Fri 24 June: Arthésis, Geelriandre, Biogenesis
Sat 25 June: L'île re-sonante

Book 8-concert pass, 3 concerts for the price of 2, or individual concert tickets.


Enjoy a unique presentation of two of Eliane Radigue’s 1970s installation works, Transamorem – Transmortem and Omnht, staged in the relaxing and immersive setting of two beds with specially installed loudspeakers, designed by sound artist and Radigue collaborator Kaffe Matthews.

Sonic_Bed Scotland by Kaffe Matthews and music for bodies playing Omhnt by Eliane Radigue

Rich Mix, 35 – 47 Bethnal Green Road, E1 6LA
14 - 24 June, 9am - 5pm daily
Bed located in the Lower Café
FREE admission

Sonic_Bed London by Kaffe Matthews and music for bodies playing Transamorem - Transmortem by Eliane Radigue

Watermans, 50 High Street, Brentford, TW8 0DS
12 - 26 June, 12pm - 9pm daily
Bed located in Studio 1
FREE admission

Festival Locations

See a map of the venues used in the Triptych festival here


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