Before shifting to a neo-Romantic style in the late 1930s, American composer George Antheil’s career centered on the avant-garde art scenes of Berlin and Paris in the 1920s. This was an atmosphere that thrived on musical scandals, and Antheil had a talent for providing such scandals.
Ballet Mechanique, premiered in 1926, was perhaps the pinnacle of Antheil’s interest in overlapping technology, physics, and ultra-modernist music designed to irritate the “squares.”
Partially inspired by the Futurist movements, which celebrated technology and the aesthetic value of pure noise, Ballet Mechanique was originally conceived for sixteen Pianolas (a type of player piano) and various percussion instruments.
The near-impossibility of synchronizing this many mechanical instruments led to several re-orchestrations, one of which included electric sirens and a variety of airplane propellers.