psychoacoustic pulses…


when i was in college, we went on a field trip to dc to visit museums…at the National Gallery of Art, we saw this massive dada retrospective. and one of the highlights was seeing a performance of George Antheil’s “Ballet Mechanique”.
says wiki,

“The original orchestration called for 16 player pianos (or pianolas) in four parts, 2 regular pianos, 3 xylophones, at least 7 electric bells, 3 propellers, a siren, 4 bass drums, and 1 tam-tam. As it turned out, there was no way to keep so many pianolas synchronized, so early performances combined the four parts into a single set of pianola rolls and augmented the two human-played pianos with 6 or more additional instruments.”

edited versions of the piece were performed over the years, using previously recorded instruments or a slower tempo, but in 2005, science finally caught up to Antheil’s original vision and the piece was able to be programmed and played by a robotic-ensemble.
and that is what i saw at the National Gallery of Art and that is the video up there. it really doesnt do it justice, the piece is mostly percussive and then it echoed around in that giant lobby, soooo LOUD. note the war-time air-raid sirens, and the fans as plane props.
the piece was made to accompany a film by Fernand LĂ©ger and Man Ray which is here…its dadaist….
……………………………

anyway, i was reminded of that after stumbling across this Steve Reich piece and subsequently downloading his piece “Music for 18 Musicians”

“Music for 18 Musicians was written for a cello, violin, two clarinets (both players double on bass clarinet), four pianos, three marimbas, two xylophones, a metallophone, and four women’s voices…although the piece is named Music for 18 Musicians, it is not necessarily advisable to perform the piece with that few players due to the extensive doubling it requires.”

i highly recommend that you just go and find this for yourself. the piece gets really manic and shimmery…Reich was experimenting with psychoacoustics which basically means that “this shit is trippy“.
i like watching this rehearsal video too, it gives you a good idea of what happens later on…

………………………………….
aaaaaaaaaand we come full circle….Antheil begat Reich begat Dan Deacon….go Dan go…

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