Friday, 27 May 2016

Eliane Radigue - Transamorem-Transmortem (rec. 1973, rel. 2011)

There's a lot of minimal electronics on this blog (and in my life in general) and more to come, but this is in a league of its own.  Just over an hour of droning ARP synth tones, Transamorem-Transmortem was created by French composer Eliane Radigue in 1973.  A quintessential example of her vast, monolithic electronic drone work, it was used as an installation piece, played at The Kitchen in NYC and then largely packed away in its tape box for nearly 40 years before this reissue.

From those scarce early 'live' (well, the playing and mixing of an hour-long tape in a performance space) outings of Transamorem-Transmortem, Radigue archived this description of the ideal performance conditions, reproduced in the CD liner notes:
"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 localization 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 center 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."
Although this might be a bit of stretch for anyone to try recreating, Transamorem-Transmortem still has a considerable effect however you listen to it.  What looks on the surface to be simply an hour of unchanging ambient hum soon reveals its depths.  The bristling, crackling high frequencies in the left channel (the CD version has been mixed in stereo) preclude any new-agey relaxation, and the low frequencies in the right channel periodically gather force to give your senses a proper pummeling if you're sufficiently engrossed in it.  As a perfectly succinct YouTube comment puts it, "this sound made my brain full".


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