Album Notes


Songs of Milarepa

Milarepa is a great saint and poet of Tibet who lived in the eleventh century. His autobiography, the Mila Kabum or Namthar, as told to his closest disciple, Rechungpa, has been translated into several Western languages. In this story of Milarepa’s life, we can see how, through years dedicated to meditation and related practices in the solitude of the mountains, subjecting himself to the severest form asceticism, Milarepa achieved the highest attainable illumination and the mental power that enabled him to guide innumerable disciples. His ability to present complex teachings in a simple, lucid style is astonishing. He had a fine voice and loved to sing. When his patrons and disciples made a request or asked him a question, he answered in spontaneously composed free-flowing poems or lyric songs. It is said that he composed 100,000 songs to communicate his ideas in his teachings and conversations.

The large collection of stories and songs, the Jetsun Gurbum, was translated first into English by Garma C. C. Chang. There is also a rare, little known collection, Stories and Songs from the Oral Tradition of Jetsun Milarepa, which existed in an oral state longer than the other works. Drinking the Mountain Stream (Lotsawa Publications), from which the songs on this album were taken, is the first English translation of these texts, made by Lama Kunga Rinpoche and Brian Cutillo.

Lama Kunga Rinpoche has kindly agreed to record his singing in Tibetan, and Robert Ashley has given his voice to the English translation of these songs.

—Eliane Radigue

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Eliane Radigue’s music has been familiar to me, and to other New Yorkers, since the early 70s. She worked for a year at the electronic music center at NYU, where she came to know Morton Subotnick, Rhys Chatham, Laurie Spiegel, and others, and she has returned to the States periodically to present programs of her own electronic works at the Kitchen and other places. In 1975, however, she became a Tibetan Buddhist, went into retreat, and dropped her composing career completely. Curiously, when she returned to music four years later, her work went on very much as before. The aesthetic was still minimalist, one might even say ascetic. The sounds were still long and sustained. The source was still her 1970 Arp synthesizer. The medium was still recording tape. The result was still a technically impeccable sequence of carefully tuned tones, which emerge from unexpected places, coalesce into unique modes, and change very slowly. The music still challenged the listener to slow down, be patient, and observe subtle changes. Listening in this way can be considered a form of meditation, and I would say that Radigue’s music is clearly religious in nature, though perhaps no more religious now than before her own conversion.

Recently Radigue embarked on a long-term project based on the 100,000 songs of the Tibetan master Milarepa. Privileged one night in early March to hear a private playing of the first segment of the new work which lasts about 75 minutes, I was particularly impressed by the distinct personality of every tone in the new piece. This one has a breathy quality. This one has an odd oboe-like edge. Another vibrates in a quirky way. Another is somehow very distant and rather loud at the same time. Another is so soft that you some­times can’t be sure whether it is there or not. There is a rhythmic motif in the second of the four sections of the piece, and for a while Radigue’s music seems to be moving, dancing, making gestures in a way that it normally never does. Her style develops over the years with the same kind of subtle progress that can be heard in one of her individual pieces. Only the time scale is different.

—Tom Johnson, “On the Fringe of Paris,” The Village Voice (May, 1982)

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ELIANE RADIGUE was born in Paris. She studied electroacoustic music techniques at RTF under Pierre Shaeffer and Pierre Henry, later becoming Henry’s assistant at the Studio Apsome. She has had residencies at the New York University School of the Arts, at Iowa University, the California Institute of the Arts, and at Mills College. In 1975, Radigue became a disciple of Tibetan Buddhism. After four years of study, she began a large-scale cycle of works based on the life of the 11th century Tibetan master Milarepa. Radigue’s music has been performed throughout Europe and the United States. She lives in France, where she continues to compose electronic music and to study the teachings of the Tibetan lamas. She returns to the United States periodically to present programs of her electronic works.


•   Trilogy on Death, Experimental Intermedia XI 121, 1998

•   Biogenesis, Metamkine, “Cinema pour l’oreille” collection, MKCD 019, 1996

•   Kyema, Experimental Intermedia XI 103, 1992

•   Mila’s Journey Inspired by a Dream, Lovely Music, Ltd. CD 2002, 1987

•   Jetsun Mila, Lovely Music, Ltd. CA 2003, 1987

•   Songs of Milarepa, Lovely Music, Ltd. LP 2001, 1983

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LAMA KUNGA RINPOCHE was born in Lhasa, Tibet, in the wood-pig year, 1935. At the age of seven Rinpoche was recognized as a tulku - a reincarnation of Sevan Repa, heart disciple of the great sage Milarepa. Rinpoche entered the monastery and by age sixteen was ordained a monk. At the time of his escape from Tibet in 1959, he was vice-abbot (Thartse Sbabtrung) of Ngor Monastery, Sakya tradition. Geshe Wangyal, under the auspices of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, brought Rinpoche and three other young lamas to the United States in 1962. Founder and resident lama at Ewam Choden Tibetan Buddhist Meditation Center, Rinpoche has authored, with Brian Cutillo, two translations of Milarepa’s stories and songs: Drinking the Mountain Stream (1978) and Miraculous Journey (1986), published by Lotsawa. He collaborated with Melody Sumner Carnahan on his father’s autobiography, In the presence of my enemies: memoirs of Tibetan nobleman Tsipon Shuguba (1995), published by Clear Light, Santa Fe.

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ROBERT ASHLEY is known for his work in new forms of opera and multi-disciplinary projects. He was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1930 and was educated at the University of Michigan and the Manhattan School of Music. In the 1960s, Ashley organized Ann Arbor’s legendary ONCE Festival and directed the ONCE Group. During the 1970s, he directed the Center for Contemporary Music at Mills College, toured with the Sonic Arts Union, and produced and directed Music with Roots in the Aether, a 14–hour television opera/documentary about the work and ideas of seven American composers. Ashley wrote and produced Perfect Lives, an opera for television widely considered to be the pre-cursor of “music-television.” Staged versions of Perfect Lives and Atalanta (Acts of God) and the monumental opera tetralogy, Now Eleanor’s Idea, have toured throughout Europe, Asia and the United States. More recently, he wrote Balseros for Florida Grand Opera and When Famous Last Words Fail You, for the American Composers Orchestra. He is writing Your Money My Life Good-bye for Bayerischer Rundfunk, and Dust for the The Kanagawa Prefectural Concert Hall in Yokohama.

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Eliane Radigue received a “bourse à la creation” from the French Government to compose Songs of Milarepa, and a “Commande de l’état” for Jetsun Mila. Radigue realized the five Songs of Milarepa between 1981 and 1983 in her Paris analog studio. They were transfered to digital format in October 1991 at C.I.R.M. in Nice, with the assistance of Michel Redolfi, Michel Pascal, and Luc Martinez.

This double CD package unites all five Songs. Lovely Music released the first two on LP in 1983 and the last one on CD in 1987.

Digital editing and mastering (Disc 1): Allan Tucker, Foothill Productions, NYC.
3/4-inch U-matic transfer (Disc 2) by Bill Kipper, Masterdisk Corporation, NYC.

Art Direction and Design: By Design

Copyright © 1985 by Eliane Radigue (SACEM)
© P 1987, 1998 Lovely Music, Ltd.

LCD 2001 [A] [D] [D]