Best place tobuy Valium on line you can find
Best place toget CBD gummies online you can find
Best place tobuy Tramadols online you can find

The “Bad Boy of Music”

George Antheil at the piano, c. mid 1920s. (Boston Globe Archives/Wikimedia Commons)

Trenton Native George Antheil

By Anne Levin

Emerging from the horrors of World War I, Paris in the early 1920s was a mecca for artists, writers, and musicians. Names like Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, Igor Stravinsky, and Sylvia Beach figure prominently in accounts of those years of innovation and creativity.

Less frequently mentioned is avant-garde composer George Antheil. But Antheil, who was born and raised in Trenton, was right in the middle of it all. In fact, he lived with his wife above Beach’s famed bookstore Shakespeare and Company, where artists and intellectuals gathered to socialize and share ideas.

Art for Ballet Mécanique.

Antheil’s most famous composition was Ballet Mecanique. The piece was notorious for its groundbreaking use of a siren, electronic bells, airplane propellors, and player pianos as well as xylophones, grand pianos, and bass drums. Originally intended as a score for a film by French Dadaist painter Fernand Leger and cinematographer Dudley Murphy, the score turned out to be twice as long as the film. When it premiered on its own in 1925, riots broke out at the performance.

In her 1959 book Shakespeare and Company, Beach described the scene at the Theatre des Champs Elysees as one of the biggest events of 1920s Paris.

“The entire ‘Crowd’ turned up and packed the big theatre,” she wrote. “When we arrived, though it was sometime before the hour of the concert, the place was full, and out front was a struggling mob trying to get in…. The audience was strangely affected by the ‘Ballet Mecanique.’ The music was drowned out by yells from all over the house. Objectors on the floor were answered by defenders above.… You saw people punching each other in the face, you heard the yelling, but you didn’t hear a note of the ‘Ballet Mecanique,’ which, judging by the motions of the performers, was going on all the time.”

Capital Philharmonic with conductor Daniel Spalding. (Capital Philharmonic/William M. Brown)

Daniel Spalding, musical director of the Trenton-based Capital Philharmonic of New Jersey, isn’t expecting riots when the orchestra performs the piece at the Roebling Machine Shop on April 20. But he is certain that the program, which also features the Trenton Circus Squad and additional compositions by Lou Harrison, John Cage, J.S. Bach, and Spalding himself, will elicit enthusiastic responses.

“When I was a student at Northwestern back in the 1970s, I was exploring through the percussion music at the library,” Spalding said. “That’s when I ran across Ballet Mecanique. What a fascinating score! Four pianos and tons of percussion players! I always wanted to perform it live, and when I actually moved to Trenton and founded my own orchestra, I got the chance. We recorded it for Naxos Records, and it is still a bestseller.”

Beach writes in her book that Antheil was one of her very first American customers. He and his wife Boski had recently moved to Paris from Berlin.

“They walked into the shop, as I remember, one day in 1920, hand in hand,” she wrote. “George was stocky in build, had tow-colored bangs, a smashed nose, interesting but wicked-looking eyes, a big mouth, and a big grin. He looked like an American high school boy, of Polish origin, perhaps.”

Journal entry by a young Antheil, showing a violin and hand saw, captioned, “Drawing of a violin and the thing to play it with.” (Wikipedia)

While he wrote more than 300 compositions during his relatively short lifetime — he died in 1959 at the age of 59 — Antheil’s interests were hardly limited to music. A true Renaissance man, he immersed himself in the study of endocrinology, criminal justice, and military history. He even wrote a newspaper column offering advice to the lovelorn.

Antheil was living and working in Hollywood when he met Austrian-born actress Hedy Lamarr at a dinner party in 1940. The two bonded over their shared interest in science. Together, they invented a system for the radio control of airborne torpedoes, which they called frequency-hopping. By rapidly switching a radio transmission among many channels, they created a way to direct missiles that could resist the Nazis’ attempts at jamming.

Antheil and Lamarr received a patent for their idea in 1942, but it was not taken seriously. Neither received any compensation. But today, it is in wide use. “Spread spectrum” is considered to be the technology that made wireless phones, GPS systems, and many other devices possible. The two were honored posthumously with the Pioneer Award by the Electronic Frontier Foundation in 1997.

Antheil was born in a house that is now the site of a parking lot next to Trenton’s Mott Elementary School. His father owned Antheil’s, A Friendly Shoe Store, at 135 North Broad Street, a building now owned by Mercer County Community College. The store was less than a block away from the Trenton Free Public Library on Academy Street, where Antheil likely spent time and where the library’s Trentoniana collection has a bulging file of clippings, programs, and memorabilia devoted to the composer.

Young George started studying piano at age 6. In an interview available on YouTube with the actor Vincent Price, dated sometime between 1942 and 1958, Antheil talks about being a small child and telling his parents he wanted a piano for Christmas. He had one stipulation: It had to be a real piano. On Christmas morning, he came downstairs to find a toy piano.

“I didn’t say a word,” he said. “I took it down the cellar, and I got a hatchet and I chopped it up. I like to feel that this is a symbol of my life. Because if music isn’t going to be everything that it must be and that I imagine, I feel like I want to burn it up and I don’t want anything to do with it. I feel like I’m a musical idealist, creator. And it’s all or nothing.”

Antheil attended Trenton Central High School, but he didn’t graduate. He was busy studying piano and composition in Philadelphia and New York. He was able to gain the financial support of Mary Louise Curtis Bok, the founder of Philadelphia’s prestigious Curtis Institute of Music. He lived in Berlin in the early 1920s before moving to Paris.

But Antheil returned frequently to his hometown. After his death in 1959, he was buried in Trenton’s Riverview Cemetery.

Despite the fact that he hadn’t graduated, Antheil was honored at the Trenton High School Alumni Homecoming in 1934. One of the newspaper clippings in the Trentoniana collection reports that he wrote an opera during a nine-month stay in the capital city. “I can’t work in New York or in any large American city,” he is quoted. “But I find that I can do an enormous amount of work right here in my hometown. New York is an impossible city to work in. But Trenton has a beautiful river and plenty of fine scenery around it, and it is comforting and consoling.”

George Antheil, Music For Violin And Piano. (Orion)

Antheil had presented Ballet Mecanique in New York after the Paris premiere, but it was not well received. He began to explore less explosive styles, and moved to Hollywood, where he wrote film scores — for The Plainsman, directed by Cecil B. DeMille; In a Lonely Place, starring Humphrey Bogart; and The Pride and the Passion, starring Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra, and Sophia Loren. He also found time to work as a war correspondent for the Los Angeles Daily News.

Antheil’s autobiography, Bad Boy of Music, was published in 1945. The lively account of his life is filled with stories that some say are products of his imagination.

“Despite having lived such a colorful and eventful life, Antheil felt the need to spice up his book with the occasional tall tale,” wrote Ross Amico in US1 newspaper on February 18, 2018. “It is highly unlikely, for instance, that a pair of neighboring old maids played the piano loudly every night in order to cover up the noise of two prisoners tunneling out from Trenton State Prison into their basement. The Antheils lived a good half mile away from the prison walls. That’s nearly nine football fields worth of tunnel. But the fabrications are part of his appeal.”

Antheil alludes to it himself, in an interview published in program notes when the Minnesota Opera was performing one of his works. “I advise that no one write a book of memoirs until they are at least 60 or 70,” he said. “Bad Boy of Music, which I wrote, is a book I often times regret extremely, for there are a lot of things I didn’t remember correctly. Some things I remembered too correctly. Just a word of advice: Don’t write a book if you are a composer, write music.”

Though the composer’s music was performed frequently throughout his lifetime, it waned after his death. But curiosity about him has grown somewhat in recent years. In 2003, the Composers Guild of New Jersey presented a George Antheil Conference in Trenton, gathering scholars from around the world. His symphonies have been recorded, and his music is played in occasional concerts.

The Roebling Machine Shop, built in 1890 to manufacture wire rope for the Brooklyn Bridge and other spans, is not far from the streets where Antheil grew up. The Capital Philharmonic’s April 20 performance in that venue would likely have pleased the composer. So might the performances by the young people who are members of the Trenton Circus Squad. The Roebling Machine Shop is their home base.

“Because each piece is so different, there will be a lot of movement and restaging in between each piece,” said Jill Aguayo, the executive director of the orchestra. “So the Circus Squad will be doing what Dan calls ‘moving music,’ so the audience isn’t just sitting there. Part of what we’re doing here is celebrating Trenton’s history.”

In addition to Ballet Mecanique, “the other works on the program are unique,” said Spalding. “Everything has an industrial connection.”

The piece by John Cage uses metal thunder sheets and brake drums. Lou Harrison’s work uses clock coils, suspended flowerpots, and coffee cans. Spalding’s contributions are his Overture to Industry, and an arrangement of the Bach Concerto for Four Pianos, which is for xylophones and marimbas.

“Bach would never have imagined anything like that,” said Spalding. “He had never known a piano, let alone xylophones and marimbas. But it will be compelling. This will be a concert like no other.”

“Ballet Mecanique” takes place on Saturday, April 20 at 7:30 p.m. The Roebling Machine Shop is located at 675 South Clinton Avenue in Trenton. Visit for tickets.

MusikFabrik performing Ballet Mécanique at Klavier-Festival Ruhr, Essen, Germany, August 17, 2002. (

Invest Wave Max Bitcore Method