Transamorem – Transmortem - Éliane Radigue
Before the greatest achievement
Before the greatest detachment.
At the limit of the frontier space of the unconscious – tuned waves – “consonant things vibrate together.”
Where does the change happen? In the inner field of perception or the exterior reality of moving things in the course of becoming. And time is no longer an obstacle, but the means by which the possible is achieved.
Éliane Radigue, 20 June 1973
Transamorem – Transmortem was premiered on 9 March 1974 at The Kitchen in New York City, where the music programmer at the time was Rhys Chatham. During this period, Transamorem – Transmortem was presented along with other compositions by Éliane Radigue in a linear mode of listening, although the piece had originally been conceived, during its composition, as a sound installation. Of course, both modes of listening are possible, and each works marvellously in its own way.
Transamorem – Transmortem is recognisable as one of the most radical of Radigue’s compositions, comparable to the first Adnos, the work that follows Transamorem – Transmortem chronologically. Very few transformations, an apparent formal aridity that is then contradicted by the physical play of the frequencies as the listener turns her head gently from right to left, or better yet as the listener moves slowly throughout the music space. Moving through zones of specific frequencies, the listener’s body experiences localized zones of low, medium and treble frequencies which vary according to the acoustic properties of the space. As Radigue wrote of Adnos: “to displace stones in the bed of a river does not affect the course of water, but rather modifies the way the water flows.” Here, we find the same meditative tension proposing a peaceful movement through the spaces created by the different frequencies that compose Transamorem – Transmortem. In the archival case with this work, Éliane Radigue included a short text entitled Inner Space, which describes the ideal conditions under which Transamorem – Transmortem should be presented.
This monophonic tape should be played on 4 speakers placed in the four corners of an empty room. Carpet on the floor. The impression of different points of origin of the sound is produced by the localisation of the various zones of frequencies, and by the displacements produced by simple movements of the head within the acoustic space of the room. A low point of light on the ceiling, in the centre of the room, produced by indirect lighting. Several white light projectors of very weak intensity whose rays, coming from different angles, meet at a single point.
Éliane Radigue (1973)
Éliane Radigue’s sound installations are an aspect of her work now completely forgotten. And yet, between 1967 and 1971 her work was often exhibited in galleries of contemporary art, mostly in Paris (Lara Vincy, Yvon Lambert, etc.), a reflection of the fact that French people have had a harder time than Americans placing the work of Radigue. She herself hesitated for quite a while to use the word “music” to describe her work, a complex that is familiar to this generation of musicians, and which is now no longer really a problem. Who would claim that the work of Éliane Radigue is not musical? at would be strange...