This short film was first presented at the 1958 Brussels Worlds Fair with 425 speakers placed throughout the Philips pavilion. The placement of the speakers and design of the building was intended to give the spectators a feeling of being housed within a concrete, silver seashell. A giant model of an atom hung from the ceiling as crowds watched stood and watched the film. Varese is considered to be the “father of electronic music”, Henry Miller described him as the “stratospheric colossus of sound.” When Philips (Philips electronic company) approached Le Corbusier to design a building for the fair, Le Corbusier said, “I will not make a pavilion for you (Philips) but an Electronic Poem and a vessel containing the poem; light, color, image, rhythm and sound joined together in an organic synthesis.”
The pavilion in which Poème électronique was first shown in was shaped like a stomach, with a narrow entrance and exit on either side of a large central space. As the audience entered and exited the pavilion, Iannis Xenakis’ composition Concrèt PH was heard. Poème électronique was synchronized to a film of black and white photographs selected by Corbusier which touched on vague themes of human existence. Corbusier’s original concept called for a pause in the film while his voice was heard, speaking directly to the audience. However, Varèse objected to the idea that Corbusier’s voice would be played over his composition, and the idea was abandoned.