The composer David Behrman says of Eliane Radigue, ‘she has discovered things in electronic sound which powerfully affect our psyches.’
Trilogie de la Mort, a sonic exploration of birth, death and life beyond death, is considered the composer’s masterpiece. Written over eight years, it came to encompass the death of the Radigue’s son in 1991.
The first of its three hour-long compositions, Kyema, is inspired by The Tibetan Book of the Dead and moves through Kyene (birth), Milam (dream), Samtem (contemplation, meditation), Chikai (death), Chönye (clear light) and Sippai (crossing and return).
The second chapter, Kailasha, draws on the tessellated paradoxes of images by MC Escher and an imagined pilgrimage around Mount Kailash, a sacred Himalayan mountain believed to lead beyond this sphere of existence.
The third part of the trilogy, Kouma, envisions life beyond death and rebirth, the last half hour flowing from climax to quiet.
Sound installation artist Emmanuel Holterbach is an expert on Radigue’s music.
Primarily known as a visual artist, Hanne Darboven developed an approach dubbed ‘mathematical music’ in which numbers were assigned sounds, developing large-scale numeric tabulations into scores.
Her work Wunschkonzert is made up of four opuses, two of which are performed in this concert by cellist Oliver Coates, the programmer of the festival.
He explains, ‘The Darboven Opus 17 consists of 100 minutes of tonal arpeggios moving across the most resonant regions of the cello... Over time the viewer / listener is more aware of detail in the attack, decay, tempo fluctuations, dynamic and timbre.’
The same piece is at once a meditative listening experience for the audience and a feat of extreme stamina for the performer. This is also the case in the flautist Kathryn Williams’ Coming Up for Air, made up of multiple pieces written to be performed in a single breath.
Prompted by her experience of chronic respiratory conditions, Williams invited numerous composers to consider their relationship to breath and the body’s role in performance.
The composer of Trio for Duo, Mary Jane Leach, describes her piece for live and taped alto flute and voice as follows: ‘Lines are passed from voice to voice, weaving a tapestry of matching and contrasting timbres. The voice in this piece is sung to sound as much like an alto flute as possible. By using glissandos, more 'extra-notated' sounds were created than appear on the page.’
Vocalist Jessica Aszodi has been called ‘one of the finest actress-singers in the country’ by newspaper The Age in her native Australia. Her voice’s unusual range of colour and pitch makes her a uniquely flexible interpreter of the piece.