Ballet Mécanique and International Modernist Networks

Carol J. Oja

in Making Music Modern

Published in print December 2000 | ISBN: 9780195058499
Published online January 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780199865031 | DOI:
Ballet Mécanique and International Modernist Networks

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More than any other event, the premiere of George Antheil's Ballet Mécanique at Carnegie Hall in New York City on April 10, 1927 brought music's role in the American machine movement into focus. Antheil's concert was also unusual in challenging racial segregation and in arranging a Dada spectacle that spurned long-held assumptions of concert decorum. A siren, airplane propellers, a player piano, ten conventional pianos, six xylophones, and a battery of other percussion instruments clustered on stage. At once infamous and undervalued, Ballet Mécanique presents a vivid picture of modernism's international traffic. It drew upon the culture of Dada, with which Antheil came in contact as a teenager in the United States, and was conceived together with a film by the Spanish cubist Fernand Léger. Furthermore, Ballet Mécanique's position as an early percussion work gives it historic pride of place next to Edgard Varèse's Ionisation of 1929-1931.

Keywords: George Antheil; Ballet Mécanique; New York City; modernism; Dada; modernist music; concerts; machines

Chapter.  7658 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: American Music

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