EMP 5 features two compositions by Else Marie Pade: The first, previously unreleased, was created for a 1965 documentary about the telecommunications company Jydsk Telefon, employing electronically generated sound to mimic telephone tones. In the second piece, Afsnit I, II, III from 1960, a violinist plays over a backdrop of electronically treated percussion – sometimes refined and subdued, at other times restless and atonal.
'One of the Longest Concerts to Unfold Within a Couple of Hours'
By Jonas Olesen
In 1965, Else Marie Pade received a commission to create music for a documentary about Jydsk Telefon (The Jutlandic Telephone Company) titled Af mit liv og min tid (Of My Life and My Time), which premiered on March 11, 1965, at the Kosmorama Cinema in Copenhagen. Unfortunately, the film has not been located, so only the soundtrack can be described.
The music begins with a burst of complex electronic glissando tones enhanced with strong reverberation. Following this is a signal-like melodic progression that appears random with many inserted pauses. However, the progression is not more random than identical or related motifs are recurring consistently. At times, the tones take on the character of imitations of acoustic wind instruments, giving the impression of a kind of fanfare. Around the middle of the piece, a new sound material emerges, where the tones are either ring- or amplitude-modulated with each other, creating more complex sounds that gradually resemble dialling of telephone numbers. This introduces a direct auditory marker for the composition's theme. Both the tone quality and rhythm contribute to giving them their character of telephone sounds, specifically the so-called DTMF tones, which are composite tones used in analogue telephony.
It is challenging to determine whether the original sound material was recorded from an actual phone or if it is merely imitations created in the studio. In any case, Pade uses the tones in such a way that there is no doubt that the sounds are meant to represent telephone tones while also musicalizing them, creating small melodies. It's an inventive, almost advertising-like approach that harks back to the sounds with a similar semantic duality that Pade used in her main work, Symphonie magnétophonique .
When the section with telephone tones concludes, the fanfare-like tones return and apparently play the same theme as before. Towards the end, longer pauses between the tones are inserted, which also become deeper. From start to finish, all sounds are heavily enveloped in artificial reverberation, creating the sense that all the sounds exist in the same artificial space. The very sparse sound material used does not undergo the many inventive electronic treatments that characterize most of Pade's compositions but is instead used strictly and consistently.
Page 42 from the score of Afsnit I, II, III, the beginning of Afsnit III © Edition·S
Afsnit I, II, III (Section I, II, III) for solo violin, 11 percussion instruments and three loudspeaker groups (1960) unfold in three clearly separate sections, as the title indicates, with a violinist playing acoustically against a backdrop of electronically treated percussion.
Afsnit I unfolds with a refined and very subdued expression, featuring sporadically occurring single tones and small melodic motifs from the violin. In addition to this, a faint tonal drone and rumbling background sounds from the tape are heard. Initially, it is challenging to discern any specific temporal connection between the violin and the pre-recorded sounds, giving a sense that they unfold in two different progressions.
Afsnit II begins with a single drumbeat, after which the music radically changes character and becomes highly active and noisy. The filtered and speed-altered percussion is prominent in the sound picture and is overlaid with bird-like screams.
In Afsnit III, the pre-recorded percussion instruments are used more punctually and naturalistically, consistently having a faintly rumbling tone. The entire section is marked by a restless atmosphere, characterised by the violin's atonal motifs. Whether Pade meant more than three speakers by 'loudspeaker groups' and how the sound sources moved between them is impossible to clarify.
The work premiered at a concert arranged by Pade herself at the National Gallery of Denmark in 1960. The program included, in addition to Afsnit I, II, III, electronic works by Jørgen Plaetner and acoustic works by Anton Webern and Ejvin Andersen.
In a contemporary review in the newspaper Politiken, the event is described as a 'tough journey' and 'one of the longest concerts to unfold within a couple of hours'. Both Plaetner's and Pade's works are heavily criticised: 'After Mrs Pade had bored the listener to freezing temperatures in the first section, suddenly bubbles of festive sound burst in II. It continued for some time but did not remain festive.' The reviewer thus found glimpses of 'festive sound' in the most active Afsnit II. Only Webern's work from 1925 is described positively.
It cannot be determined whether both the film and music are titled Af mit liv og min tid. The title Musik til Jydsk Telefon (Music for the Jutlandic Telephone Company) is written by Pade herself on the original tape, but it could be a working title. Musik til Jydsk Telefon has not been previously released.
Violinist Niels Nielsen and percussionist Poul Ritz Andersen performs in Afsnit I, II, III. The music was later used as the soundtrack for the ballet Variationer (Variations) by Nini Theilade, premiered in Portugal in 1967. Some sources incorrectly state the composition year and premiere as 1961. For the correct work dating source, see: R.N.: 'Stroppetur’' Politiken, November 28, 1960. Afsnit I, II, III were previously released on Various Artists: Pioneers – The Beginning of Danish Electronic Music. Ljud LJUD 006 2XCD, 2008.