Drone and Restraint: the Work of Electronic Composer Eliane Radigue


The singular work of electronic music pioneer Eliane Radigue is a fountain of inspiration for its stark minimalism and the aesthetic to which she so devoutly ascribes.

She was born in 1932 in France, and studied electroacoustic music in Paris in the late 1950s at an institution called the Studio d’Essai. Known for its creative use of sound technologies and radiophonic techniques, the school had a blooming effect on Radigue’s mind. She studied music concrete under the tutelage of Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry and there began composing with feedback and tape loops..

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Artist Discovery of the Week: m.e.d.o.

Last week, I discovered this amazing artist on SoundCloud that I have been listening to non-stop ever since—m.e.d.o. I have no idea who this person is. All I know is (s)he’s from London. (I’ll refer to m.e.d.o. as a “he” for convenience sake). 

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m.e.d.o. has zero branding around himself—his SoundCloud artist page is whited out and has no logo or photos. No contact info is on his profile, no artist background, and no external links. But his music is really special. 

I would describe it as ambient electronic, but that’s such a broad genre, it really doesn’t do m.e.d.o. justice. It’s delicate. It’s gentle, without being twee or cutesy. Tones fade in and out of the background with minimal change in timbre, but the notes chosen and the treatment of the tracks themselves—the timing, the accompaniment (of which there is minimal)—just creates this terrific mental world. And I love that it’s not ultra compressed. A lot of electronic music you see on SC these days it just one straight bar of sound that they obviously just crushed the life out of with compression + limiting.

Not for m.e.d.o. Either by choice or circumstance, he left in the dynamic range, which gives his tracks a living, breathing quality that really resonates with me and the type of music I aspire making.

To make matters confusing, there’s another m.e.d.o. on Spotify, but I doubt it’s the same artist. That M.E.D.O. makes much more commercial, cheesy sounding house music that bears little resemblance to the artist on SC. Less craft, more blunt force.

Could the SC be a side project for the Spotify MEDO? Can’t be sure, but I doubt it. They just feel like completely different artists striving for much different sounds.

In light of this discovery, and ALL the other incredible bedroom artists I've connected with through my SoundCloud page, it saddens me that the streaming giant is experiencing financial woes. They apparently just cut 40% of their staff this week.

If this streaming platform goes away, what will it mean for grassroots bands, bedroom producers and the like? Well, it will likely be a boon to Bandcamp, but in my mind, Bandcamp and SoundCloud compliment each other, and the entire music industry will be weaker because of the loss of SC. 

Let's hope they can turn things around. SoundCloud has been a boon to so many, and their failure would hurt a lot of amateur artists. 

The Hypnotic Power of Repetition in Music

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Repetition and music are so intimately linked that their relationship seems almost invisible. While characterizing a piece of music as “repetitive” still carries a negative connotation (akin to describing it as “boring” or “monotonous”) repetition is an element of almost every piece of music in nearly every genre. In fact, composers that don’t use repetition must go out of their way to do so. Pick a song composed in the last 100 years and you are almost guaranteed to find passages that come up again and again — usually choruses or refrains. Sometimes they vary slightly; other times they are reproduced note for note, timbre for timbre. As the author and music scholar Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis so eloquently puts it, repetition in music is both, “entirely ordinary and entirely mysterious.”

No other art form so passionately embraces repetition as music. If a writer were to repeat a phrase or a paragraph over and over throughout an essay, one might think he was either mad, or he was trying to create a type of poetic/musical resonance. If a painter or sculptor were to repeat a work over and over, critics might have the same reaction to her work. Yet in music, repetition is expected — encouraged even...

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Historical Techniques for Composing Electronic Music

In electronic music, one has the opportunity not only to compose, but also to but also to pioneer new audio experiences.
— Thom Holmes

Composing music has never been a simple task. While there may be times the muse speaks to us more fluidly and things seem to come effortlessly; every composer, from the most to least gifted, has experienced a time when they are absolutely and utterly dumbfounded. This article is dedicated to the individuals in that place.  

Below is a list of techniques electronic musicians have historically engaged to move them from that uninspired place into one where they may look at things with fresh ears and eyes. Please note, this is by no means a comprehensive list of techniques--rather the ones the author found most interesting on a personal and artistic level.

Sound Crafting

This is probably the most common method modern sound sculptors use to compose. The composer sits at an instrument or digital audio workstation (DAW) and works with the audio to create something compelling, arranging by instinct until a general structure forms.

While sound crafting is a good place to begin, it can sometimes lead to mediocre or at least familiar results. (If you always make music in the same manner, with the same tools, aiming for the same aesthetic, stagnation is probably looming.)

Graphical Scores and Instructional Composition

These different approaches to scoring come from classical roots, but could be good in shaking up your process. A graphic score allow the composer to map out a series of changes in the technical components of the sound as the piece progresses. Traditional notation is usually jettisoned in favor of other symbols and visual systems to depict the timbrel evolution of sound in the piece.

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One of the most interesting variations on a graphical score is the listening score, which was created as a visual aid to help listeners follow more experimental compositions. In 1970, the artist Rainer Wehinger created such a score for Gyorgyi Ligeti’s 1958 tape piece, Artikulation. It was later animated.