Wednesday Geek Woman: Else Marie Pade

Calvina Hobbes is a Scandinavian fangirl, who sometimes takes time off from English-based media fandom to fawn over brilliant men and women slightly closer to home.

Danish composer Else Marie Pade is a pioneer in electronic music. Born in 1924, Pade was active in the Danish liberation movement during the Nazi occupation of Denmark in WWII and was interred in the Danish concentration camp Froeslevlejren in 1944. After the war her fellow prisoners helped pay for her musical education, but PTSD prevented her from graduating as a pianist from the Danish musical conservatory. Instead she pursued the study of composition.

Pade had since childhood been interested in the sounds of the natural world around her, and this became the focus of her own compositions. Inspired by French composer Pierre Schaeffer’s “musique concrète”, Pade created the first piece of Danish electronic music for the Danish Radio “En dag paa Dyrehavsbakken” (A day at the fair) in 1955. In this piece she utilized many different recordings of life at the Dyrehavsbakken-fair to serve as background music for a television documentary. Pade was a
proponent of electronic music, but found no likeminded people in Denmark at that time and so left for Europe. In 1989 Pade was the only woman of 42 featured electronic artists at a festival in Amsterdam. Some of her best known works are “Syv cirkler” (Seven circles) (1958) and “Glasperlespil” (Glass pearl play) (1960).

Pade experimented with computer based electronic music during the 1990s but prefers creating her music on vintage machines. Else Marie Pade did not achieve wide acclaim until her ‘rediscovery’ in 2000, after which several of her works have been issued on CD. A biography was published in 2005, and two more followed in 2009.

Interview: Else Marie Pade. The concrete music and the sound vault of reality (English)
CD, with examples: Dacapo Records (English)
Full list of works: The Virtual Music Library (Danish)
Kvinfo (Lexicon of Biographies of Danish Women): Else Marie Pade (1924–) (Danish)