Ballet Mécanique

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7:30pm Friedberg Hall
Which piece takes a tam-tam, seven electric bells, a siren, three airplane propellers and a pair of earplugs to be performed? The answer is Georges Antheil’s Ballet Mécanique which will be presented at Friedberg Hall on February 17, at 7:30 p.m.. Composed in Paris in 1924 by the 24-year-old American, Georges Antheil, Ballet Mécanique was the first piece ever written solely for percussion orchestra. Combining sounds of the industrial age, atonal music, and jazz the original version calls for four bass drums, three xylophones, a tam-tam, seven electric bells, a siren and three different-sized airplane propellers (high wood, low wood, and metal) as well as two human-played pianos and 16 player pianos. Synchronizing player pianos however, was beyond the technology of the day, forcing Antheil to scale down the instrumentation. As a result, Antheil never heard his magnum opus the way in which it was originally envisioned.The Ballet Mécanique was intended to be more than a piece of music; it was conceived as a soundtrack for a film of the same name by cubist artist Fernand Leger, photographer Man Ray and cinematographer Dudley Murphy. Tragically, the synchronization issues were never resolved (to further complicate things, Antheil’s score turned out to be twice as long as the film). The two works were premiered separately, and have had separate lives. Thanks to Prof. Lehrman’s (Tufts University) realization of the Ballet Mécanique, the live performance synchronized to the film was premiered on the 13 of November at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention in Columbus, Ohio, by the Peabody Percussion Ensemble under Julian Pellicano. The Percussion Ensemble, with the aid of the Peabody Computer Music Department, will present this extraordinary work at Peabody’s Friedberg Hall on the 17 of February (7:30 p.m.). Admission is free.

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