Tomorrow night I’m going to see Eliane Radigue perform Songs of Milarepa. Radigue is a pioneering musician whose main instrument since the mid-70s has been a large modular Arp synthesizer, similar to the one seen in 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s a bank of knobs and switches that emits a warm analog purr and can be manipulated in myriad ways. Many of her compositions unfold over at least an hour and consist primarily of minimalist drones that are added to and subtracted from. They resemble (and are symbolic of) the ebb and flow of nature: waves, the seasons, a lifetime, a river, a thunderstorm.
The search for a sound
In the short documentary above, Radigue discusses her history and approach to work, and I’m struck most by her patience. She waited ten years with the sound in her head until discovering a way to make it. It takes years to make one of her pieces, every detail painstakingly attended to. She talks of the epiphany of being able to make music “with the tips of the toes, or rather fingers,” micro-gestures that add up to something monumental, literally sculpted sound.
For me, it’s a reminder to think of work as a cycle, a long process built of small elements that unfold over time. Greatness comes with respect for the work, vision, persistence and consistency, and in being relentless in the search for your sound. That is what leadership is.
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