The EMP 2 release presents two remarkable purely electronic compositions by Else Marie Pade: Glasperlespil I & II (Glass Bead Game I & II), crafted in 1960 with inspiration drawn from Hermann Hesse's novel, The Glass Bead Game (1943), as well as a childhood toy that Pade treasured into adulthood, revealing her boundless inventiveness. The toy, a frame with 12 by 12 compartments, allowed for the creation of endlessly intricate patterns with differently coloured glass beads.
By Jonas Olesen
In 1960, Else Marie Pade composed two purely electronic works entitledGlasperlespil I and II (Glass Bead Game I and II). The inspiration for the works came partly from a novel by Hermann Hesse, The Glass Bead Game (1943), and partly from a specific glass bead game in the form of a toy, which Pade had played with when she was a child. The toy, which Pade kept as an adult, had the form of a frame with 12 by 12 compartments in which variously coloured glass beads could be placed. These could be combined and made to form infinitely varied and complex patterns.
In both works, Pade applies the game's principle from the toy to her musical composition: she sets up twelve 12-tone rows, each with 12 tones, and varies them in different combinations throughout the work. Pade has talked about having been inspired by the game in a book by Andrea Bak, Else Marie Pade – A Biography (2009). Here, she explains that, 'when I began making electronic music, I thought of it [the game] again because some of the sounds we made were very glass-like. I wanted to try to make a pattern with the music, just as I had made patterns with my glass bead game. In Glass Bead Game I, I put solid-coloured beads in the form of notes in every tone-row so that listeners could understand their meaning. Each colour was simply represented by its own note, and so it ran boom, boom, boom … then another colour came, black, red, yellow, blue, green, white, and so on.'
The system described by Pade in Glass Bead Game I is evident in the music, characterised by short Morse Code-like sine tone beeps which come and go in slow rhythmic patterns. They vary through the work in terms of timbre, pitch, and rhythm, and thus obtain their character of a kind of signals which undergoes a series of transformations but is still recognisable as part of an overall plan. The sound material used consists nearly exclusively of combinations and manipulations of sine tones which appear in separated sound groupings.
The rhythmic feeling is further embedded, so to say, ‘inside’ the individual notes when Pade makes extended use of ‘support notes’, used when two notes with nearly the same frequency are present simultaneously. This is heard as a rhythmic modulation, which Pade refers to as 'swaying', and which is found in many other of her electronic works.
Glass Bead Game I runs as a series of tonal soundscapes, some of which emerge as deep, rumbling oscillations which function as a secure foundation for the remaining more ethereal and swaying sound groups. The electronic processing of the sound material appears to be quite basic, with changes in speed, filtering, and the addition of artificial reverb.
In Glass Bead Game II, the same basic sound material is used, but in a more abstract design with a less rhythmic but more contemplative expression for the listener to follow. The notes are longer and glide in and out of each other in waves of movement, and they appear with a greater degree of distortion than in Glass Bead Game I. In addition to the tonal material, we hear moments of faint simulated percussion, and in the work’s second half, we hear a filtered noise-like sound which repeats rhythmically as though it were a kind of breathing.
Both works have a minimalist and cool musical expression, in which the tonal elements are predominantly ‘harmonic’, yet used so sparingly that only hints of something distinctly melodic arise. It is these minimalist and cool touches which give the works a modern sound, especially in Glass Bead Game II, which reminds us of other contemporary electronic music, such as that of the Finnish techno and experimental composer Mika Vainio (1963–2017), who was known for a characteristic minimalist style centred around the use of sine tones.
Glass Bead Game II had a particular importance for Else Marie Pade in the long run, as she played the work for Karlheinz Stockhausen when he visited Denmark in 1961. He asked for a tape copy of the work, and subsequently used it in his teaching, giving Pade collegial approval of her music from one of the most important electronic music composers of her time.
Glass Bead Game I and Glass Bead Game II were first performed on 31 May 1960 in the programme Vor tids musik (Music of Our Time) on Danmarks Radio P2. Glass Bead Game I was first released on a double LP, Electronic Works 1958–1995 (Important Records, 2014). Glass Bead Game II was first released on CD, Et glasperlespil (Dacapo Records, 2001). This CD can be found inside the book: Bruland, Inge (edt.): Else Marie Pade og Symphonie magnétophonique (Museum Tusculanum, 2006).
About EMP Series
Born in 1924, Else Marie Pade was a pioneer of electronic and concrete music in Denmark after World War II. EMP Series, a collaborative effort between Dacapo Records and publisher Edition·S, offers a fresh, exclusively digital perspective on Pade's extraordinary music, featuring numerous works that were previously unavailable or unmentioned in Pade's literature. These include 80 reel-to-reel tapes and a wealth of compositions and recordings from her tenure as an employee at DR (Danish Broadcasting Corporation), which were discovered following her passing in 2016.
By assembling landmark, rare, and previously unheard recordings, EMP Series provides a renewed interpretation of Pade's works and places them in a musical context. Regular releases will continue until 2024, marking the centenary of Else Marie Pade's birth and celebrating her remarkable sonic world in an immersive fashion.