'...Out of and for machines...': time-space and time-form in George Antheil's 'Ballet Mécanique'

Jackson, Paul (2010) '...Out of and for machines...': time-space and time-form in George Antheil's 'Ballet Mécanique'. Sonic Ideas (Ideas Sonicas), 2 (2). ISSN 2317-9694

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Official URL: http://www.paulj.myzen.co.uk/blog/teaching/voices/...


George Antheil, the eponymous ‘Bad Boy of Music’, wrote of his ultra-modernist Ballet mécanique (1923-4) that it represented a unique experiment in time-form, time-space and the fourth dimension of music. Antheil’s inexorable essay in noise was appropriately realised through instruments of his present – mechanically-operated pianos, percussion instruments, airplane propellers, electric bells and sirens – enabling a level of complexity of temporal organisation hitherto unknown. Antheil’s ideas also gained enthusiastic support from Ezra Pound who, in Antheil and the Treatise on Harmony (1924), argued that music should delineate itself principally by its passage through time, rather than by its ‘state’ at any moment in time. In the process, Pound reasserts the notion of the primacy of a predominantly temporally-informed mode of perception: music as a phenomenon existing in time-space, and articulating time-form. Ballet mécanique seeks to embody a realisation of these concepts, ‘wherein time functioning in music differs from ordinary time and the series of deductive and also physical phenomena that follow it.’ In Ballet mécanique, the compression and expansion of events within time moments, the metamorphosis of events within a past-present-future paradigm, the utilisation of simultaneous time-series, and the placing of events in time frames that lie beyond the scope of human memory recall, are all enabled through a quasicomputational mode of composition. Whilst the manipulation of sound material in such ways is often the very stuff of music compositional practice, the use of machines in Ballet mécanique allowed for the construction of a previously unimagined (and unimaginable) temporally-constructed soundscape.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: music
Faculty: ARCHIVED Faculty of Arts, Law & Social Sciences (until September 2018)
Depositing User: Repository Admin
Date Deposited: 29 Mar 2012 10:21
Last Modified: 23 Feb 2022 15:43
URI: https://arro.anglia.ac.uk/id/eprint/216994

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