Bang a gong

Nothing to say today—I’m trying to get some writing done—but here’s a bit of fun: George Antheil’s Ballet méchanique performed by 16 computer-controlled pianos and a host of robotic percussion courtesy of LEMUR, the League of Electronic Musical Robots. (I would bet that L. Douglas Henderson wouldn’t be too pleased with this realization, but for my money, the xylophone alone makes it all worthwhile.)

The inevitable question: did Antheil and Hedy Lamarr really get some secret patent for remote-controlled torpedoes or something? Yes, they did. Putting Antheil’s experience with pianolas to good use, he and Lamarr proposed using piano rolls to rapidly switch between 88 different transmission frequencies, making frequency-jamming nearly impossible. It was the prototype of the “spread spectrum” idea that’s crucial to modern wireless communication.

One comment

  1. Thanks for posting this. I did some work on Antheil recently and found his biography hilarious, lovely, intense, and … well, SURREAL. I suggest La femme 100 tetes performed by Benedikt Koehlen. If I figure it out, I’ll send you a cool video.

    Off to class

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