George Anthiel–Ballet Mecanique

Four days after Independence Day, in a new century in a fairly new country Anthiel was born. It only took him 25 years to flee to Paris, where a generation of avant guardians was drinking together. Under this influence he created a grand folly that managed to sound more inventive and new then any number of similar experiments made at the same time.

What sounds contemporary about this ballet?

There is that gee-whiz, that’s a neat sound, can I record it, found aesthetic of Cage, and Metal Machine Music and later sample happy puppies like Kid Koala, but in a way that requires one to get two airplane propellers up on stage.

It has an obsession with percussion, its all percussive and it all has a beat, percussion is the instrumentation of this new age, and you can tell how modern something is by how percussive it is dancing is all about the bass line, and so is this.
remember it was constructed as a ballet.

Then there are his feelings around automation. He gets past the artist as auetur and allows player pianos and electronic bells to merge seamlessly with acoustic instrumentation like glockenspiel, gong, cymbal, et. al.) so that it achieves a cyborg grace.

The critical reception of this piece was wholly negative, and his next piece is an achingly pretty neo-classical piece of chamber music, perhaps to remind his audience of his skill, perhaps as a fuck you to his critics, and perhaps as a way to say ‘this is what you guys want, this is what you guys will get.’