Friday, October 20th, ISSUE presents a public performance celebrating the work of pioneering French composer Éliane Radigue (in absentia), presented as a part of The Austrian Cultural Forum’s Moving Sounds Festival. Following her honoring at ISSUE’s 2017 Gala, the evening spans her acoustic and electronic compositions and features the world premiere of OCCAM RIVER XVI, performed by composer and clarinetist Carol Robinson and harpist Rhodri Davies, as well as a performance of Radigue’s 2013 piece OCCAM IX by Laetitia Sonami.
The evening also showcases Mila's Song in the Rain from The Songs of Milarepa, a tribute to the Tibetan saint and poet from the eleventh century. Released in 1983 and compiled in 2001 by Mimi Johnson’s Lovely Music, the song cycle is arguably considered the masterpiece of Radigue’s early electronic works. The recording of Mila's Song in the Rain is presented as a focused listening environment, demonstrating the signature organic mysticism of Radigue’s Arp synthesizer work alongside Lama Kunga Rinpoche and Robert Ashley’s respective Tibetan and English readings.
After completing her ground-breaking Naldjorlak trio for two basset horns and cello, Éliane Radigue began a new musical project called OCCAM OCEAN. She initiated the cycle with a solo harp piece written for Rhodri Davies in 2011. Little by little, solos for a wide range of instruments were created, including three for electronic instruments, and then combined into various chamber groupings. The combinations are seemingly infinite, a compositional coincidence that was extremely motivating to Radigue. Her first trio, OCCAM DELTA II, was written for bass clarinet, viola and harp, and premiered by Carol Robinson, Julia Eckhardt and Davies in 2012. It, and other pieces for these performers, will soon be released by shiiin on a double CD.
Both Robinson and Davies had already played in several of the larger groupings, but it was by chance last January, while warming up for a concert in Hamburg that they happened to play the birbynė (a sort of Lithuanian folk clarinet) and harp at the same time. Since Davies would soon be in Paris, he contacted Radigue, and proposed that she hear these amazing sounds. The work began immediately, with everyone involved feeling stunned by the luscious richness of how the bowed harp and beating birbynė multiphonics melded into something particularly expressive. Part of the magic may have been due to how long both performers had been exploring and performing Radigue’s music, and the subsequent transformative understanding they shared. As the rehearsals progressed, the new work, OCCAM RIVER XVI, stretched to more than 45 minutes, but as is typical of Radigue’s work, duration has little meaning in an all-encompassing emotional listening experience as this promises to be.
OCCAM IX, the ninth composition in the OCCAM OCEAN composition cycle, was created with Laetitia Sonami on electronics with her new instrument, the Spring Spyre. Sonami originally studied with Radigue in France in 1976. While her music took on a very different expression through her design of unique controllers and live performance, they both remained very close. In 2011, Sonami requested Eliane to create a piece for her new instrument. Their meetings took place during the winter 2012 in France, after which Radigue gave her permission to premiere the piece in the Fall 2013. Three audio pick-ups on the Spring Spyre are analyzed and trained through neural networks to create subtle real time modulations of digital synthesis. The work mode is based on an individual “image” illustrated and evoked within each solo -- where each musician is guided by his or her personal “image.” This provides the essential sound, letting descriptive words and evocations establish a system of communication as the piece is being elaborated. This intuitive-instinctive process guides the performer to the very essence of the composition. Sonami describes the process as akin to oral transmission of ancient traditional music.
Eliane Radigue: OCCAM IX - Laetitia Sonami (30’)
Eliane Radigue: Songs of Milarepa, Mila's Song in the Rain (19:10’)
Eliane Radigue: OCCAM RIVER XVI - Carol Robinson & Rhodri Davies (45-50’)
Working since the 1950s, French composer Éliane Radigue’s profound impact on extended technique and minimalism has developed in parallel to the widely celebrated careers of minimalist composers in New York City. Still, the artistic trajectory of her work remains largely underexposed and her inherent distinctions from the male-dominated classification of minimalism remain underemphasized. With her first compositions presented in the late 1960s, her work was almost exclusively created on a single synthesizer, the Arp 2500 modular system and tape. Since 2001, she has composed mainly for acoustic instruments. Radigue’s enduring artistic history often intersected with ISSUE, including one of the first ever performances at ISSUE’s 22 Boerum Theater. In 2010, she introduced the New York premiere of her 2009 acoustic composition Naldjorlak. Her masterpiece Songs of Milarepa, as well the American and World premieres of OCCAM III, OCCAM XVI, OCCAM X and OCCAM RIVER III performed by Carol Robinson and Nate Wooley, were presented at ISSUE. Radigue has inspired many across the spectrum of ISSUE’s community and remains a vital pioneer whose methods resonate timelessly. In honor of her of contributions to electronic music and sound art, Radigue was also awarded Prix Ars Electronica’s Golden Nica in Austria in 2006.
To say that Carol Robinson is a Franco-American composer and clarinetist is perhaps too restrictive to describe the eclecticism of her experience and passion. She is not someone who likes the middle ground. She graduated from the Oberlin Conservatory before continuing her study of contemporary music in Paris thanks to a H.H. Wooley grant. Whether playing repertoire or more adventurous material, she performs in major venues and festivals the world over (Festival d’Automne, MaerzMuzik, Archipel, RomaEuropa, Wien Modern, Huddersfield…), and works closely with musicians from a wide stylistic spectrum. A fervent improviser, she prefers the most open musical situations and regularly collaborates with choreographers and visual artists. She initially began composing by writing music theater pieces, and has since received commissions from a wide variety of ensembles and institutions. Recent works include a pocket opera for baroque ensemble, Mr Barbe bleue (Commissioned by the French Ministry of Culture), and The Weather Pieces, a cycle for solo instruments and electronics. Robinson’s recordings demonstrate the breadth of her work. In addition to her own compositions, there are monographic CDs of composers Giacinto Scelsi, Luigi Nono, Morton Feldman, Luciano Berio, Eliane Radigue, or Pill Niblock, as well as classical music, alternative rock, and jazz.
Rhodri Davies was born in 1971 and lives in Swansea, South Wales. He plays harp, electric harp, live-electronics and builds wind, water, ice, dry ice and fire harp installations. He has released four solo albums: Trem, Over Shadows, Wound Response and An Air Swept Clean of All Distance. His regular groups include: HEN OGLEDD (with Richard Dawson and Dawn Bothwell), Cranc, a duo with John Butcher, The Sealed Knot, Common Objects and a trio with John Tilbury and Michael Duch. He has recorded, toured and/or performed with the following artists: David Sylvian, Jenny Hval, Mark Fell, Kahimi Karie, Laura Cannell, Lina Lapelyte, Sachiko M, Bill Orcutt, Jim O’Rourke, Ben Patterson, Christian Marclay and David Toop. In 2008 he collaborated with the visual artist Gustav Metzger on ‘Self-cancellation’, a large-scale audio-visual collaboration in London and Glasgow. New pieces for solo harp have been composed for him by: Eliane Radigue, Philip Corner, Phill Niblock, Christian Wolff, Alison Knowles, Mieko Shiomi and Yasunao Tone. In 2012 he was the recipient of the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Grants to Artists Award and since 2016 is a Chapter Associate Artist.
Laetitia Sonami was born in France and settled in the United States in 1975 to pursue her interest in live electronic music. She studied with Eliane Radigue, Joel Chadabe, Robert Ashley and David Behrman. Sonami’s sound performances, live-film collaborations and sound installations focus on issues of presence and participation. She has devised new gestural controllers for performance and applies new technologies and appropriated media to achieve an expression of immediacy through sound, place and objects. Recent projects include her duo Sparrows and Ortolans with James Fei, a new live film made in collaboration with SUE-C based on Calvino’s Cosmicomics and the current installation of ”le Corps Sonore” at the Rubin Museum, NYC, with Bob Bielecki and Eliane Radigue. Sonami has received numerous awards among which the Herb Alpert Awards in the Arts and the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Awards. She currently is visiting faculty at the San Francisco Art Institute, Mills College (CCM) and Bard College MFA program.