Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Else Marie Pade (1924)

Else Marie Pade (Aarhus, December 2nd, 1924)

Else starts to take piano lessons in secret, mentored by a teacher from the Music Academy of Aarus. Her parents would rather see an unruffled career for their daughter but Else's dreams were far away from those of a operator in WWII's Denmark. Her piano teacher soon introduces her to the Resistance environment: unfortunately they get caught by the Gestapo and, only 19 years old, Else spends eight months in Frøslev Lejr's lager. It was 1944.
Within the prisoners, Else get to know people that could understand her profound interest for music; they will later grant her a subsidy in order to study at the Music Academy.
From 1946 to 1949 Else moves to Copenhagen where she attends piano lessons at the conservatory. After getting the diploma she continues to study under Vagn Holmboe tutorship. On a 1951's night she gets to listen to a speech from Pierre Schaeefer on "Horisont" radio show: musique concrète's soul could explain the new "sound universe" musical theory. Else get impressed so much by the maestro's words that she decides to go to Paris in order to meet him. In 1952 the two of them are close friends.
After an estival summer spent at Bakken park in Dyrehaven, where some musicians were playing Stravinsky's Petrushka al fresco, Else decides to make a documentary for Danmarks Radios. She creates a soundtrack with open-air sound, music and noises from the nature, electronically edited. The piece, "One day at Dyrehavsbakken" (1954-55), is not appreciated by danish public, very closed towards avant-garde":

“People were indignant that I allowed myself to call it music.”

These harrowing denigrations notwithstanding, Else goes on with her musical research. She joins Holger Laurdsen, also employed at Danmarks Radios, who was in contact with Werner Meyer-Eppler circle and interested to electronic music. The two of them start their journey through concrete music. Holger teaches her the technical bases and, thank to what she learned, Elsa realizes the soundtrack for "Looking for a ghost" radio drama (1956). The couple, that previously used the radio's laboratory, build their own studio with imported instruments. Around them technicians, writers and amateurs discuss about musical avant-garde and listen to music. Stockhausen, Ernst Krenek and Herbert Eimert visit them very often and hold seminars. Danish composers do not appreciate Else's research and don't recognize as valid what Schaeffer or Stockhausen theorize: all new tendencies get put aside from the traditionalists. While Denmark is not interested by Else's work, Stockhausen and Boulez require her tapes to use during lessons and seminars they hold throughout Europe. These tapes are “Syv Circler” (Seven Circles), frst electronic composition in Denmark ever, and “Glasperlespillet” (The Glass Bead Game). In 1958, during Brussel's Universal Exposition, Else meets Berio and Maderna. Later on she gets to know John Cage. From 1957 things get complicated: Holger's sudden death amplifies Else's loneliness and isolation. in 1958 she writes "Symphonie Magnétophonique", a 19 mints long piece, played for the first time on Danish radio i 1959. This work describes a siphonic journey into the modern civilization with concrete music's means: everyday sounds mixed with the ones realized in studio or taken from Lauridsen archives. Everything changes in 1960 when Else divorces from her husband Henning Pade: she really couldn't be a full time producer, a single mom and electronic music composer in a hostile country anymore.

“The fact that I was a female composer - which was obviously rather unusual at the time - was not perceived as a problem by anyone. In Denmark, on the other hand, I often felt a bit ridiculed as a female composer. Even my own husband was bothered by my creating music. One might say that I was doubly isolated in Danish composer circles, partly as a composer of electronic music, partly as a woman.” Else Marie Pade


  1. What a great story. How does it end?

  2. It haven't ended yet. but she lived many years as forgotten composer. Until year 2000 when a music magazine made an interview with here, and the electronica scene in Denmark rediscovered her.
    She is currently nominated for "Nordic council music prize" 2012