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Mysteries: Mime music - Norwegian Institute of Recorded Sound

Mysteries: Mime music

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The mystery of...

Mysteries from the archives

The Mystery of the mime's music

This time it is a curious record that leaves questions to be answered. If you look up in a dictionary under the word "mime", you would most likely find a picture of Marcel Marceau. But as a recording artist, he is not the first name that comes to mind, so what could be on a record labeled Marcel Marceau?

The mime breaks the silence with this music record

Marcel Marceau as Bip the clown. The mime breaks the silence with this music record.

Marcel Marceau was born in Strasbourg in 1923 of Jewish parents, under the name Marcel Mangel. When World War II came, his father was sent to Auschwitz. Marcel and his brother Alain took the name Marceau after a French general in the French Revolution, and joined the French Resistance.

During the war they saved a number of children from ending up in concentration camps. Marcel Marceau discovered that the children remained calm during the flight when he mimed for them, and that was how he started his life's work.

After the war he enrolled as a student at an school of dramatic art, and eventually started his own theater company of pantomime artists, the first of its kind in the world. In 1947 he created the legendary character Bip the clown, a character that is often compared to Chaplin's the Little Tramp, and that followed Marceau throughout his career.

Marceau performed his pantomime in many of the leading theaters in Paris, Le Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, Le Théâtre de la Renaissance, and Sarah Bernhardt. Marceau also toured much of the world, to promote the "art of silence". He even published a record, titled "The Best of Marcel Marceau." It consisted of 40 minutes of silence.

Marceaus last tour was in 2006. He died in 2007, 84 years old, but he left behind a legacy as one of the greatest mime artist in history.

The mystery

Much of Marceaus pantomime was performed in complete silence, but he sometimes used the music to accompany him in the performances. He used Mozart's piano concerto no. 21 for a routine, and this concerto was played again at his funeral.

The record we have found in our collections, could very well contain music used to accompany one or more of Marceau's routines. The label is marked Comédie des Champs-Elysees, Paris, one of the theaters at which Marceau performed. In addition, "Marcel Marceau" is typed on each side, in as well as "guitare" on one side and "harpe" on the other.

Our question is this: is this music that is originally written for Marceau, or is this familiar music from the classical universe? If that is the case, does anybody know a) who the composer is, b) what piece is being played, c) what number could Marceau have used this for, if any, and d) who might be the performer(s)? If you happen to know any of this, please leave a comment below, or send us an email.

The mystery songs

Side A: guitare

Side B: harpe

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