Eliane Radigue - Opus 17 2xLP
Label: Alga Marghen
The French minimalist Eliane Radigue studied electro-acoustic composition, beginning in the late '50s under the tutelage of Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry. By the end of the next decade, her research lead her to investigate the possibilities of electric feedback as a principle source material in composition. Opus 17 marked the final composition in her feedback studies, one that she had finished prior to a year-long tenure in New York in 1970. Then and there, she met Rhys Chatham who cited this piece in particular as the touchstone for him to begin his storied career of quicksilver minimalism through sheer volume and sonic density. In the liner notes, Chatham recalls: "One day, while gossiping, she invited me to her loft, which was just on the corner. She had me listen to a piece composed in France; the piece called Opus 17. What I heard changed to course of my life as a composer. That piece, that impressive source of inspiration, gave the impression of being in a grand cathedral, both for the sensation of immensity of being in such a large cathedral, as for the effect of being so close to God."
It should be noted that Radigue was about to embark on a series of works that would stand as the most recognizable of her career, notably, the Adnos trilogy. Through all of the work in the '70s, Radigue employed the ARP synthesizer as the instrument, slowly rotating with graceful steeliness through layered tone and frequency. Many of these same compositional techniques are at work in Opus 17, made all the more malleable through the unpredictability of feedback. Hypnotic yet slightly disquieting, Radigue's Opus 17 glides upon nuanced patterns that evolve, transform and mutate very slowly upon her time suspension compositions, dappled with a grizzled energy. The work predates the equally iconic glassine feedback works of Arcane Device in the late '80s and Toshimaru Nakamura's no input mixer techniques from the late '90s, though was never published until Alga Marghen resurrected the material. Not just a necessary historical document, Opus 17 is a brilliant piece of electronic music.