Ballet mécanique in DC

Jason and Dennis have already mentioned this news, but it’s worth repeating:

The infamous Ballet mécanique is coming to Washington, DC, but not in any way it’s been heard before. And it’s not going to be for just one performance…it’s going to be played over 30 times.

George Antheil’s 1925 masterwork, which was never heard in its original version (for 10 percussionists, two pianists, three airplane propellers, electric bells, siren, and 16 player pianos) until 75 years after its composition, will be presented on the mezzanine of the National Gallery of Art’s East Wing every day for over two weeks, starting on March 12. Performing it will be 16 computer-controlled player grand pianos and an orchestra played entirely by robots. This means it will be the fastest, most maniacal, and–thanks to the cavernous acoustics of the giant building–the loudest Ballet mécanique ever performed.

In conjunction with a huge exhibit on Dadaist art, which runs from now through May, the Music department of the National Gallery has commissioned a Ballet mécanique installation, which will be on display and performing from March 12 through March 29. The all-mechanical orchestra will be located on the mezzanine, next to the entrance to the Dada exhibit hall. At 1:00 pm (every day) and 4:00 pm (weekdays only), the orchestra will roar into action and play a 10-minute version of the piece.

When I taught film at the University of Illinois, I used to teach French Dadaist painter Fernand Léger and cinematographer Dudley Murphy’s film, Ballet mécanique, which was originally made in conjunction with Antheil’s music (the collaboration was scrapped when it was realized that the music and film didn’t fit), so I’m very interested in checking this out. The National Gallery of Art has some information on the Dada exhibit, which also sounds very cool.

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