Eliane Radigue was born in Paris. She studied electroacoustic music techniques at the Studio d’essai of the RTF, under the direction of Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry (1957-58). She was married to the artist Arman, and devoted ten years to the education of three children, deepening classical music studies and instrumental practice on the harp and piano at the same time. In 1967-68 she worked as Pierre Henry’s assistant at the Studio Apsome.
Radigue worked for a year at the New York University School of the Arts in 1970-71. She was in residence at the electronic music studios of the University of Iowa and the California Institute of the Arts in 1973. Her music, its source an ARP synthesizer and medium recording tape, attracted considerable attention for its sensitive, dappled purity.
Eliane Radigue works with electronic sounds on tape to create an ambience within which sound seems to move in a continual flow around the listener. Her music has been described as "infinitely discreet ... next to which all other music seems to be tugging at one's sleeve for attention."
--Michel Chion, in Les Musiques Electroacoustiques
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 Théâtre de Nancy (choreographed by Douglas Dunn), Adnos II and Adnos III, and began the large-scale cycle of works based on the life of the eleventh-century Tibetan master, Milarepa. Three installments of this work, Songs of Milarepa, Jetsun Mila, and Mila’s Journey Inspired by a Dream, have been released by the American label Lovely Music.
In 1984 Radigue received a “bourse à la creation” from the French government, and in 1986 a “Commande de l’état” for the continuation of the Milarepa cycle.
A lot of the best new music can't be captured in sound bites -- you have to listen for a long time. Of no one is that truer than Eliane Radigue, who lives in France, but whose unarticulated time sense brings her closer to La Monte Young in sensibility than to anyone in Europe. Listen to her exquisitely-sculpted electronic works for two, three, even seven minutes, and you may hear nothing but a drone. But over a far longer period, her electronic drones thicken, begin to pulse, and change into complexly gritty textures so gradually that you suddenly wonder why you didn't notice the change. Over the long haul her works crescendo into glacially slow climaxes, bristling with harmonics, inducing in the listener an altered state of ecstatic spirituality.
Eliane Radigue’s music could be thought of as a desert plant stubbornly growing within the cultural hothouse that is Paris. In the heart of one of the great arts centers of Europe, working in her own small electronic music studio, she has made her intense pieces since the late Sixties, apart from and independently of the curatorial in-groups where concerts and festivals are scheduled… Eliane Radigue’s music explores an expanded universe of which technology is a part. She has discovered things in electronic sound which powerfully affect our psyches.
--David Behrman, January 1997
A steady stream of sonic activity taking place right at the edge of one’s perception.
--The New York Times
Notoriously slow and painstaking in her work, Radigue has produced in the last decade or so on average one major work every three years. Very recently, in reponse to the demands of musicians worldwide, she has begun creating works for specific performers and instruments together with electronics. The first of these was for bass player Kaspar Toeplitz, and the most recent is for the American cellist Charles Curtis.
Recent performances have been at galleries and museums such as the Salon des Artistes Decorateurs (Paris), Foundation Maeght (St. Paul de Vence), Albany Museum of the Arts (New York), Gallery Rive Droite (Paris), Gallery Sonnabend (New York), Gallery Yvon Lambert (Paris), and Gallery Shandar (Paris); at festivals including the Festival de Como (Italy), Paris Autumn Festival, Festival Estival (Paris), International Festival of Music (Bourges, France); and at the New York Cultural Center, Experimental Intermedia Foundation (New York), The Kitchen (New York), Columbia University (New York), Vanguard Theatre (Los Angeles), LACE (Los Angeles), Mills College (Oakland), University of Iowa, Bennington School of Music, the San Francisco Art Institute, the NEMO Festival (Chicago 1996), and Diapason, Gallery for Sound Art, New York. She has been on many broadcast programs including France Culture, France Musique, distribution via satellite covering over 50 stations in the U.S. including special programs on KPFK (Los Angeles) and KPFA (San Francisco). Radigue currently lives in France, where she continues to compose electronic music and to study the teachings of the Tibetan lamas.