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    ballet mécanique
and other works for player pianos, percussion, and electronics
George Antheil was 23 years old when he began work on what was to be his most famous—or infamous—piece, the Ballet pour Instruments Mécaniques et Percussion, more commonly called the Ballet Mécanique. Living at the heart of the literary and artistic explosion that was going on in Paris in the 1920s, he decided to write a piece as outrageous as the works being created around him. Enamored with the industrial age, and with the anti-Romantic, anarchic, and Dadaist sentiments that flowed in his circle, Antheil's conception was for a piece that celebrated machines as makers of music. He proclaimed his piece, in an article for De Stijl, "the first piece of music that has been composed OUT OF and FOR machines, ON EARTH." He originally planned it as the soundtrack of a film of the same name by American filmmaker Dudley Murphy and Dadaist artist Fernand Léger, a film which, with its non-linearity, its jerky, repetitive movements, and its surrealist montages, uncannily presages the more adventurous (or annoying) music videos of the 1980s. What did the title mean? Antheil wrote in his autobiography that it "seems to imply that it is a 'mechanical dance' possibly to illustrate the interior of a factory," and that is often how the piece is characterized. But, he said, "The Ballet Mécanique had nothing to do with the actual description of factories, machinery...l had no idea of copying a machine directly down into music, so to speak. My idea, rather, was to warn the age in which I was living of the simultaneous beauty and danger of its own unconscious mechanistic philosophy." In fact, he played with rwo other titles for the piece, "Message to Mars" and "Xylophony," before settling on Ballet Mécanique. He was warned by friends that the title might be misconstrued for the French term for "carpet sweeper"—balai mécanique—but perhaps this appealed to his Dadaist side.
—Paul D. Lehrman  
I'll buy it!

BALLET MÉCANIOUE
AND OTHER WORKS FOR PLAYER PIANOS, PERCUSSION, AND ELECTRONICS

Double Music for Percussion Quartet (1941) John Cage/Lou Harrison
Peter Himmer, percussion I
Abe Finch' percussion II
Scott Dupre, James Powers, percussion III
Zach Field, percussion IV
Jeffrey Fischer, conductor

Shoot The Piano Player for player piano & electronics (1995) Richard Grayson
Mr. 528 for player piano & electronics (1996) Richard Grayson
(first recording)

Ritmica No. 5 and Ritmica No. 6 for percussion ensemble (1930) Amadeo Roldán
Scott Brenner, Scott Dupre, Zach Field, Abe Finch, Peter Himmer, Dorathea Kastanas, Michael Murgia, Aaron Pearsall, James Powers, Andrea Scott, Simon Thomsen
Jeffrey Fischer, conductor

Finale ("Saltarello, Presto") from Symphony No. 4 ("Italian") ( 1822)
Felix Mendelssohn/arr. Paul D. Lehrman for 16 player pianos
(first recording)

Ballet pour Instruments Mécaniques et Percussion (1924) George Antheil
for 3 xylophones, 4 bass drums, tamtam, two pianos, siren, 7 bells, 3 airplane propellors,
and 16 player pianos
(first recording of this version)
Abe Finch, James Powers, Andrea Scott, xylophones
Scott Dupre, xylophone and tamtam
Peter Himmer, Zach Field, Simon Thomsen, Scott Brenner, bass drums
Juanita Tsu and John McDonald, pianos

Jeffrey Fischer, conductor
RECORDED NOVEMBER 20, 1999 AT DURGIN CONCERT HALL,
UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS AT LOWELL