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Else Marie Pade dies aged 91

Else Marie Pade died on 18 January, aged 91

Danish electronic composer Else Marie Pade died on 18 January, reported the Politikan. She was 91 years old. A student of Pierre Schaeffer, Pade also worked with the likes of Stockhausen and Boulez. Though she pioneered electronic music in Denmark, her work received relatively little attention until a radio documentary about her was broadcast in 2001. A number of record releases has since bought Pade some long overdue recognition.

Pade was born in 1924 in Aarhus. Ill health forced her to spend much of her childhood in isolation from her peers. “I have been searching for sounds all my life,” Pade explained to Anne Hilde Neset in The Wire 354. “In my childhood I was sick with a recurring kidney infection [...] I lay in bed for so long, but I could lie and listen to the sounds outside.” In a 2001 Danish Radio feature, she had elaborated on the theme: “It might be the sound of children playing in the garden or the sound of my mother’s friends visiting. When they were all talking at the same time in the next room, it sounded exactly like a large aviary with cackling birds… Early in my life, I got a very close relationship to radio plays and their special way of using sounds.”

During the Second World War Pade was an active member of the Danish resistance until 1944, when she was detained by occupying German troops and imprisoned in Frøslev prison camp. After the war ended, she took up piano studies at the Royal Danish Conservatory in Copenhagen. Inspired by a radio programme about musique concrète and Pierre Schaeffer, Pade travelled to Paris in 1952 to learn more about the subject. Her research brought her into contact with Schaeffer, who took her on as a student. In 1955 Pade premiered her first concrète composition En Dag På Dyrehavsbakken (A Day At The Fair), which she made for a TV documentary. The work led to further commissions to sonically illustrate a radio play and a selection of children's stories, including Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid. In 1958 her Syv Cirkler (Seven Circles) became the first electronic piece in Denmark to be performed on the radio.

In 2013 Pade released Svævninger in collaboration with Jacob Kirkegaard on Important Records. Anne Hilde Neset interviewed Else Marie Pade for The Wire 354. You can read the feature over at Exact Editions.