Musique Nonstop: Meet Else Marie Pade

Musique Nonstop: Meet Else Marie Pade


Musique concrète can be lengthy and intense, so for the sake of brevity and your short attention spans, I’ve compiled a few short excerpts from one of my favorite Pade works from 1962: “Faust!” Take a peek into her “sound universe,” and notice how she layers the sound recordings to recreate the story from Goethe’s beloved Faust. In case you’re interested in listening to the whole piece, I’ve linked it here so that you can experience the full effect of this music from start to finish. Here’s a tip: Wear headphones for an enhanced music experience!

The story of Faust is a tragic one. In this first section, the devil Mephistopheles bets God that he can tempt a human Faust away from righteousness. Cue ominous sounds.

Before there was the musique concrète genre, Else Marie Pade says that she felt called to sounds from her natural environment during her childhood years, particularly when she was ill. She says that she has always been attuned to her environment from a young age, and developed a fascination with sound. Training to become a concert pianist throughout her childhood didn’t satisfy her, and while she was imprisoned in the last year of World War II by the Gestapo, she started to become musically inspired by the outside environment from her cell window. Later in life, Pade admits that music with conventional instruments never spoke to her the way the natural environment could.

Frustrated that he possesses no human means to acquire infinite knowledge, Faust looks to magic. Mephistopheles appears to Faust in his study. Faust makes a deal with the devil; as long as Mephistopheles agrees to serve Faust while on Earth, Faust must serve the devil in hell. See if you can hear Mephistopheles laughing.

In an interview with Jacob Kirkegaard Pade says, “For me it was to a high degree because of the possibilities of manipulating the different timbres (sound colours) to match exactly what I was hearing myself, inside my head. Even just the way you add echo or any other special effects to a sound, renders it with a character that is so distinctly different from acoustic orchestral music. This electric artificial sound appeals to me.”

Faust becomes attracted to a beautiful woman Margarethe, whom Mephistopheles helps to seduce. Can you hear a conversation between Margarethe and Faust?

After over fifty years of composing, Pade finally received the praise she deserved. Shortly after, she sadly passed away in January this year at 91 years old. Even at 91, Else Marie Pade was still composing, offering her views of the world through such a different lens than most of us live through. She took notice of the parts of the world that go by unnoticed, doing what most people don’t. She listened.

Margarethe is pregnant with Faust’s illegitimate child. Margarethe’s brother threatens Faust for it, but dies at Faust’s and Mephistopheles’ hands. Margarethe is arrested, and as Faust and Mephistopheles flee, all of heaven condemns her to hell. Listen for it; the condemnation will become apparent.
No one is saved. Faust proceeds into hell. Listen for the storms and creaking doors, perhaps Mephistopheles’ growling; it’s almost as if Faust is being swallowed up by hell!

For more EMP tidbits, you can read a transcript from an interview between Else Marie Pade and Jacob Kirkegaard, and more on this cool page! It’s pretty fantastic!

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