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Reconstructing Ballet Mécanique: An interview with Paul Lehrman
Paul Lehrman
Paul Lehrman merging with a still from Ballet Mécanique.



Ballet Mécanique is preserved at Anthology Film Archives in New York City and is made available as part of Unseen Cinema: Early American Avant Garde Film 1893-1941, a collaborative film preservation project sponsored by Anthology Film Archives and Cineric, Inc.

Explore further
Document The Ballet Mécanique page:
Paul Lehrman's site.
Document Antheil Photo Archive:
sponsored by Otherminds
Document Piano Rolls and Experimental Music


Watch a clip from the movie video DSL/Cable modem video 56k modem (4:00s)

PRESTON WRIGHT: Tell us a little bit about the "Bad Boy of Music" and how he ended up in France in the early part of the century.

PAUL LEHRMAN: (George) Antheil was a hot composer as a kid. He decided at some point that he really needed to go to Europe, and the way he was going to go to Europe was to become a hot pianist. So he practiced a ridiculous amount, ten to twelve hours a day, stuffing his hands into fishbowls full of ice water when he would start to get sore, and he would just keep going. Eventually he did an audition for a promoter in New York called Hanson who was working with a pianist named Leo Ornstein (who just died last year.) Ornstein was about to leave Hanson, so Hanson was looking for some hot avant-garde pianist to take to Europe and Antheil walked in the door. Antheil also had some money from a benefactor (a patroness of his, Mrs. Louise Curtis Bok in Philadelphia) and Hanson took him to Europe and sent him on a concert tour of Europe.

He would go to England and Germany and Italy, Hungary, and France playing concerts and sort of creating scenes wherever he went. He would play the usual repertoire, and he also played his own pieces, which tended to be "ultramodern" as he would describe them. They would be very dissonant and very percussive, they'd be very different from what people were used to hearing--Schumann or Rachmaninoff or Liszt. Antheil would create these great scenes, and sometimes even riots. After he was in Europe for less than a couple of years, he decided he really wanted to concentrate on composing. He ended up going to Paris where Stravinsky was. Stravinsky was his idol. He settled in Paris.

He had been writing lots of piano music up to this point. In Paris he started working on the Ballet Mécanique, which was going to be his magnum opus.

I find it very interesting that he was playing his own pieces from this early period because I haven't heard much of anything before Ballet Mécanique. Where are these pieces? Do we still have them somewhere?

They exist. There is a pianist in Paris, an American pianist right now named Guy Livingston, and Guy has the recordings of these pieces. He got the scores from the New York Public Library which was where they reside. Pieces like the Sonata 3: Steel, Roads, and Airplanes, was one piece. Then there is the Serpent Mécanique, and then there is the sonata Death of the Machine. These are all fairly short pieces, and some of them are almost etudes for what became the Ballet Mécanique.

These pieces are not well known, but they do exist, and now that there has been this revival and interest in Antheil, they are coming out again.

So you have this young man George Antheil. Here he is in France. How did he hook up with these people who made the film? Who were they?

Antheil was hanging out with a very fabulous crowd. He came to France into Paris. Actually Stravinsky invited him to Paris. They had met earlier in Berlin. Stravinsky invited him and his girlfriend, who later became his wife, to come to Paris. Antheil found lodging at a building owned by Sylvia Beach who was the owner of the Shakespeare and Company Bookstore. Sylvia Beach was also the original publisher of James Joyce's "Ulysses". Shakespeare and Company Bookstore was kind of the salon of all the expatriate writers and artists and composers and sculptors. All these people from America and from England and from Ireland would hang out at Sylvia Beach's bookstore. George lived upstairs and had his little piano in his little apartment. So he got to hang out with all these people.

In a way Sylvia kind of took him under her wing. So he got to meet Joyce, he got to meet Picasso, he got to meet Hemmingway. He got to meet Ezra Pound, and Ezra Pound was a huge fan of George's. So he immediately found himself in this very very heavy-duty circle of all different kinds of artists, and among those artists that he crossed paths with, was the photographer Man Ray (who took some rather wonderful pictures of him) and Fernand Léger, the cubist artist and sculptor. Léger and Man Ray, along with an American cinematographer who happened to be in Europe at the time - Dudley Murphy - who did a lot of pioneering films about jazz, those three somehow got together with George and they announced at various times that they were going to do a movie with music.

What's interesting is that Léger and Man Ray said they were going to do the movie, and George said that he would do the music, and they did this at separate times. Each one says that they were the first. George announced the music and he was looking for collaborators to do a film with, and Léger announced the film and was looking for someone to do the music with. It's really unclear who came up with the idea first, but it's probably true that it was the Sylvia Beach connection in that crowd that they met and started to collaborate.

The name "Ballet Mécanique" was not original to either of the two sources?

Well, it was not original. There was a drawing from one of the art magazines of the 1910's. Just after the First World War. It was called Ballet Mécanique, I think there was a sculpture also of the same name, so that name was known in some circles. It wasn't terribly original.

The very interesting thing about the name is that if you spell it slightly differently, it becomes the French word for carpet sweeper. Ballai Mécanique is a mechanical broom, or a carpet sweeper. Somebody pointed this out to Antheil - it might have been Gertrude Stein - and he probably thought it was a great pun. "I'll write a piece about a carpet sweeper!" So they weren't' terribly concerned about that.

The name had been around, but this was the first time it was applied to a film work.

What went wrong? Somewhere down the line, the music and the movie were never put together?

It's really unclear what happened. My guess is that they were working in isolation. Antheil was writing the music, and was working with a player piano manufacturer called Pleyel, and the filmmakers were working on their own, and they were working with various models and were getting footage of ordinary people and were putting together their thing in the studio. It's possible that the image of Antheil appears in the film, but it's unclear whether it's actually him or not. It seems that they were working in very different contexts. According to Antheil's wife who spoke about it many years later, they put the music and the film together and they discovered the music was twice as long as the film.

There was at the time no standard way of synchronizing music and film. I don't think they worked out how that was going to work, and it didn't. So they put these things together supposedly, and they played them together, and were like, "Oh no. The film and music don't work!" They went off their separate ways. The film was premiered in Vienna. I think it was premiered without any music at all. Years later it was played with other kinds of music. You can get it on various videotape collections with other kinds of music. Antheil did his premieres in Paris, of course without the film.

When was this premiere in Paris? I've seen conflicting dates for it.

There were several of them. There were private concerts, there were semi-public concerts, and there were public concerts. I think the official premiere was in July of 1926. There were other salon performances that happened before that. When was the world premiere of the piece? Hard to say. But it was between 1925 and 1926.

At one of these premieres they actually filmed it and used the scene in another film?

No. That wasn't a Ballet Mécanique concert. This is a great story. Antheil was playing a solo concert in Paris before the Ballet Mécanique was finished, and Marcel L'Herbier who was a filmmaker who was a friend of his was making a fiction film, a dramatic film about an opera singer who goes crazy on the stage, who has a nervous breakdown on the stage, and the audience riots. So he needed a riot scene on film in a concert house. So he came into an Antheil concert. Antheil claims that he didn't know what was going on although that doesn't sound quite reasonable. He came into the concert hall where Antheil was doing the solo recital and he turned on the lights and trained the film cameras on the audience.

As would always happen at an Antheil concert, there was a riot. So L'Herbier got this wonderful riot on film, and then he spliced it in with other footage of a singer on the same stage at a different time. It looked like there was this singer who was falling apart on stage and they were just rioting in the audience. Antheil doesn't appear in the film, all you see is the audience. It's a wonderful scene, and if you look closely you can recognize fairly famous faces. Ezra Pound is in there. I think Satie is in there. Various other members of the Parisian art community are in on this riot and it's hysterical to watch because people are actually hitting each other and throwing things at each other and standing up and booing and getting into fist-fights in the hall. It's a wonderful piece of film.

VIEW: L'inhumaine: the audience riots! video DSL/Cable modem video 56k modem (2:51s)

Let's go back to Ballet Mécanique then. Here is George. He'd had quite a bit of success with Ballet Mécanique, has fallen in with an artistic crowd in France. He comes back to New York and isn't accepted at all. What happened there?

New York was a complete disaster for George. He was invited to come and do the piece at Carnegie Hall by a promoter by the name of Donald Friede who was not a promoter at all. He was a book publisher. He was the son of a wealthy family and decided that he was going to get into concert promotion. So he put up this concert at Carnegie Hall, invited George over and said, "We'll do two nights and we'll play your jazz symphony (which he just finished, which is a really wonderful piece) and we'll play the Sonata for piano, violin, and drums, and then we'll do the American premiere of the Ballet Mécanique."

Because of all the hype that had followed the piece in Europe, they decided to exploit that in New York and to tantalize New York audiences and say, THERE WERE RIOTS IN PARIS, COULD IT HAPPEN HERE? "Could this be the most disturbing, most distressing artistic event of the century, come on out and see what happens." Freed would drop these very broad hints, not at all subtle, that Carnegie Hall could be the scene of this debacle.

New York audiences didn't quite buy it because they were a little more jaded I think than Parisian audiences. Parisian audiences loved scandal for the sake of scandal. New York audiences didn't really think that way. One of the critics said Varèse's Amériques, which is in some ways an even more revolutionary piece had already been played in New York. So one of the critics pointed out that because New York audiences had heard Amériques that Ballet Mécanique was actually fairly tame in some ways.

Then when they actually did the concert, they brought in a bunch of people that were either paid or somehow convinced to start fights. They didn't do a very good job, so they were sort of laughed at. Then there were terrible technical problems with the piece. They had this ludicrous backdrop that they painted for the stage which nobody really looked at until the day of the concert, then they realized that it was incredibly silly. It was too late to do anything about that. They tried to hide the changing of the setting on the stage from the audience, where they had to move all of these pianos out of the wings, and they pulled down the curtains to hide it from the audience, but they miscalculated and had to raise the curtains to fit all the pianos. People in the audience came back from the lobby to see what was going on, so there was an element of surprise there that was missing. They had these electric fans which they were using to produce the airplane propeller sound, and the fans were pointed right at the audience. In Paris they were pointed up towards the ceiling. So as soon as they turned the fans on, hats and wigs and programs started flying all over the place. Reportedly, somebody's toupee landed twenty rows away.

Then at the end there is this big climactic siren wail, and they had not had a chance to rehearse with a siren. They got the siren the morning of the concert and the guy playing the siren didn't know what he was supposed to do with it. He figured you just crank the thing and it starts to make noise. So, the conductor gives him the cue, he starts cranking and nothing comes out. Well, it was a New York City fire siren, and a New York City fire siren takes about a minute to warm up. Worse than that, once it warms up, you can't stop it. It stops by itself, and that takes another minute for it to wind down. So this guy is cranking and cranking and cranking, nothing comes out. The piece finishes, the guy lets go and gives up, and all of a sudden the siren starts to sound. So the last sound you hear as the audience is packing up and leaving and booing and laughing, and the orchestra is getting up and leaving is this siren wailing away on stage all by itself.

This was the New York premiere of the Ballet Mécanique. There was no second performance. They canceled the second performance because it was such a debacle. The press was almost unanimously condemning Antheil as being a fake, and I think something like seven different critics conspired to use the phrase "Making a mountain out of an Antheil" in their reviews. It killed him as an artist and as a composer. His reputation never recovered from that, although he continued to write music the rest of his life, and some of which did quite well, but from that point on, he was considered something of a joke.

Would you say this is the reason why he became more conservative in his composing style after that?

What's really funny about this is that he already had become more conservative in his composing style before the premiere in New York. He was a real acolyte of Stravinsky, and Stravinsky had sort of turned around by the '20s and was doing stuff in a more neo-classical vein. Antheil thought that that represented a kind of maturation and he would do the same thing.

He actually wrote a piano concerto in between the time that the Ballet Mécanique premiered in Paris and the time it premiered in New York. He wrote a piano concerto which is a lovely piece of music. Guy Livingston in Paris is now preparing a recording of it for two pianos. It's neo-classical, it sounds like Stravinsky.

The irony of it all is that after he got back to Paris, the piano concerto was premiered and the French didn't like it because it was too tame. It wasn't loud enough for them. They wanted more of the bad-boy Mécanique stuff, and Antheil at that point figured he was passed it. Now he had no fans in New York, and no fans in Paris.

It seems like even the Jazz Symphony that premiered the same night, it was pretty much overshadowed by the Ballet Mécanique performance.

The Jazz Symphony and the Sonata for piano, violin, and drums were completely overshadowed which was really too bad because there were people in the audience, George Gershwin was in the audience, Paul Robeson was in the audience, Virgil Thompson was in the audience, Aaron Copland was actually on stage. He was playing in the Ballet Mécanique. All these people said they really liked the Jazz Symphony which is a delightful piece, it's sort of parodistic. A little bit like P.D.Q. Bach. It's a wonderful piece of music, and the orchestration is wonderful, and it was apparently played pretty well at the premiere and it was completely forgotten about.

I have also been told that performance was historical because it was the first performance by African-Americans on stage in Carnegie Hall?

Well, the orchestra was W.C. Handy's band. It was a really good band out of Harlem. An interesting side-note to that was that Handy himself was not a good enough conductor to do it. It's all over the place in terms of tempos and time signatures and Handy was used to playing much straighter music. So they brought in another conductor by the name of Allie Ross, who I think was also African-American, and he ended up conducting it.

As to whether or not this was a first for Carnegie Hall, I don't know.

So you have this situation where he's not popular anymore, he's lost his popularity in France, he's lost it in North America. Is this the reason why Ballet Mécanique fell off the radar until the last few decades?

There are a number of reasons for it. Certainly that's one of them. It's also a very difficult piece to produce because Antheil originally wanted to use sixteen player pianos in the piece. The technology for synchronizing sixteen player pianos and getting them all to play in step with each other didn't exist. He thought it did because Pleyel had a design for a system that could do that, but they never actually built a working model, so the sixteen player piano idea got thrown out the window for the first performance. Instead it was done with one player piano and with I think ten or twelve human pianists when it was premiered in Paris and also in New York.

After the 20's were over, player pianos sort of disappeared. They weren't as popular. Player pianos were hugely popular the first 20 years of the century. I saw a statistic that said something like 45% of all pianos produced in a couple of years during the 20's were player pianos. They were entertainment for the salon. For people's living rooms. This was before phonograph sounded good, before radio sounded good. Player pianos, you could get some high fidelity music.

In the '30s radio and the phonograph started to improve enough. They were certainly a lot easier to deal with and a lot cheaper to deal with than having a player piano. So player pianos sort of dropped off. There were a lot of works done for player pianos by Debussy and Ravel and Stravinsky which you don't hear very much any more because player pianos simply aren't' out there.

There was no real reason to do the piece. It was a joke. It was very hard to play. It required an instrument that nobody really had anymore. Antheil himself rewrote the piece in 1952 without a player piano. He wrote a completely different version for Ballet Mécanique using a lot of the same thematic material, but it's much shorter, much faster, much tighter, it doesn't have the siren, it doesn't have the electric bells. It does have two airplane propellers and has a lot more percussion in it. Actually, it's a very nice piece, it's a well-constructed piece, which bears a passing resemblance to the original Ballet Mécanique, but is really quite different. That piece does get done occasionally. It was recorded a couple of times in the 50's. It has been done a number of times since then.

So fast forward, how did you get involved in putting together a MIDI score for this and then eventually realizing the piece both for orchestra and now with the film?

I was a hired gun. Schirmer, the music publisher in New York had taken over the rights to Antheil's catalog in the early 90's. They got in touch with me because my field of expertise is MIDI and I wrote a book with Schirmer's parent company publisher, a textbook about MIDI, and they got in touch with me and said, "Have you ever heard of this piece, and would you like to help us with this?" I knew about the 1950's version of the Ballet Mécanique, I didn't know about the 1920's version. When it was described to me, my jaw dropped. I said, "So you want me to create a MIDI file for sixteen player pianos, is that what you want?" They said sure, and I said, "So when do I start?"

So they sent me an engraved version of the score which they had just finished which was gorgeous. I sat down with a computer and a MIDI sequencing programming and a bunch of little electronic piano modules so I could hear what I was doing, and I entered the score into the computer basically note by note, chord by chord, and came up with a MIDI sequence which can be used to drive sixteen player pianos.

There are actually only four parts for the player pianos. Antheil's ideal was to have four pianos on each part. There are only four parts which makes it a little easier. That was what Schirmer hired me to do. Also as part of that project I said, "Well, I bet you people are going to have trouble getting airplane propellers and sirens for the performances". The idea was to create a performable version of the score. They said, "I suppose they might." I said, "Why don't I go out and get some digital samples of sirens and airplane propellers so you can include that in the package." Schirmer would send out to a group that wanted to perform this a copy of the score and a CD-ROM on which the MIDI files would be and instructions how to use the MIDI files, and also these digital samples which could be played back from a computer or from a sampler of airplane propellers and sirens and bells which I created.

A friend of mine in California went out with a portable DAT machine and went to a private airfield and recorded a bunch of W.W.II airplane propellers, and I went to my local firehouse and recorded a siren. I bought a whole bunch of electric bells and recorded them in my studio, and so that's how we created samples.

As I'm doing this for Schirmer, I'm realizing that wouldn't it be fun to find somebody to actually do a performance of this thing. Schirmer had already been in touch with Yamaha. Yamaha makes a line of player pianos called Disclaviers which are computer controlled, MIDI driven, acoustic pianos. Uprights or grands, there's a whole line, and they are wonderful instruments. Schirmer and Yamaha had already discussed the idea about doing a premiere somewhere, that if they did, Yamaha would try to supply the pianos.

I was teaching at the University of Massachusetts Lowell at the time, which has a very strong program in recording engineering. I was teaching in the recording engineering department there. They also had a very strong percussion ensemble. So I went to the director of the percussion ensemble and said, "Would you be interested in doing this piece." He knew the later version of the Ballet Mécanique. He didn't know about this earlier version. His reaction was, "Sure! I think we can do this, give me a year."

Between the time that I talked to him and the time we did the performance a year had passed. They rehearsed for about four months. On top of this there are ten percussion parts. Xylophones, bass drums, and gongs, plus two human pianists along with sixteen player pianos, so they had to rehearse. These were all students. Then I contacted Yamaha and got the name of Michael Bates who's the head of academic relations at Yamaha, and I said, "How'd you like to loan us sixteen player pianos so we can do Ballet Mécanique?" He said, "How many and where do you want them and when?" They went through a dealer here in the Boston area, and they loaned us sixteen player pianos. We got them on the stage. We got the University Concert Hall for six days running so we could set up, do the rehearsals, and the concert, and we did a recording session after that. The concert was a huge success. We did all sorts of other stuff at the time for percussion ensemble and for player pianos. It was a three-hour concert and it was wonderful. It was streamed on the net by WGBH, a PBS- NPR station here in Boston. They actually did a live web-cast. It was the first they'd ever done of a live concert. This was in November of 99. There were people listening to it all over the world, which was great.

As we were preparing for the performance of the older one, we were sort of treating it as a shakeout performance for the piece. Schirmer had a couple of people there helping us solve problems. There were other performing groups that got in touch with Schirmer.

The American Composers Orchestra in New York did a performance of the piece the following April at Carnegie Hall which was well received. Also in San Francisco, there is a group called OtherMinds, the director of which is Charles Amirkhanian who is a composer who was also the executor of Antheil's estate. He was friends with Antheil's widow. Amirkhanian was very helpful to me in terms of historical research.

The year 2000 was Antheil's centenary year. So Amirkhanian wanted to do a concert on George's 100th birthday featuring the Ballet Mécanique in San Francisco. He started working on this, and then the San Francisco Symphony got in touch with him and said, "We're doing a program a month before then. I think it was a three week program of American composers called American Mavericks, and we are going to be featuring all of these wild 20th century American composers, Ruggles, Ives, and Varèse, and we'd love to do the Ballet Mécanique as part of that." Amirkhanian said, "Sure," so it was a co-production of San Francisco Symphony and OtherMinds. It was in the middle of the American Mavericks series in the first week of June 2000. Michael Tilson Thomas conducted. Yamaha once again came across with sixteen player pianos. They had players from the local area, and imported a few from New York. They did it on the main stage at Davies Hall. It was an all Antheil concert. It was exactly the same as the original Carnegie Hall Concert. Sonata for piano, violin, and drum and then they did Jazz Symphony which Tilson Thomas knew quite well and had recorded already I think with New World Symphony down in Florida. Then there was intermission, and they came back and blew the roof off with Ballet Mécanique.

It was absolutely spectacular. He took it a lot faster than either of the previous performances because he had percussionists who could handle it. He really pushed the envelope. He also made it a lot louder than the other performances had been. He pushed the player pianos so hard that two of the burned out by the end of the performance. They went into thermal-overload. They were being pushed too hard, got too hot, and shut themselves down. One of the pianos was being displayed on a screen above the stage. There was a video camera on it, so people all over the hall could see the player piano's action going. That was one of the player pianos that failed. So at the end of the piece, the player pianos are still going crazy, and people look at the screen and nothing's moving. It was explained later, and somebody wrote about it in one of the reviews. It was a wonderful performance. Just breathtaking, and I'm so happy it was recorded because it was really something.

Now this is connected with the film. How did you get involved in that?

The magic of e-mail. A film archivist here in New England named Bruce Posner was working with an organization called Anthology Film Archives in New York to put together a huge series of avant garde films from the early part of the film era, wiith American connections. This could be considered an American film Dudley Murphy, Man Ray, and Antheil were all Americans, even though they were in France. Bruce put together this huge program called Unseen Cinema which was going to be thirteen days of film ranging in length from 30 seconds to an hour. From all sorts of genre's, but all experimental, all avant garde. One of the films was going to be the Ballet Mécanique film. They had discovered a very fine print of it in the basement of the widow of Kiesler who was the original presenter of the film in Vienna in 1924. They found an intact print that was probably used at the film's original premiere. They did a couple of safety copies, and they were going to show this film.

Bruce Posner got in touch with me and said, "I understand you've done this record" and he had a copy of the recording that we made. "Is there a way you can adapt this music to accompany the film?" He sent me a videotape of the film. This was a great opportunity because it was a chance to bring together these two works which had never been done together, in terms of being synchronized, and starting and stopping together. So I looked at this film and said, "I think I can do this."

I took a recording of the piece (actually another recording I had done of the player pianos alone which was somewhat faster) and I edited it. I sat down with the score and decided where I could cut things. Things are a little long and repetitious, so I didn't feel bad about cutting some things out of the piece, so that it would fit the film, that it would be the same length of the film. Fifteen minutes fifty-five seconds.

I do film scoring as part of my compositional work so I know what I'm doing when it comes to editing film music. I felt comfortable doing this in a lot of ways, and I made a new recording with this edited version of the film in my studio, and put it on video tape, sent it back to Bruce to look at, and he was completely knocked over. He said, "We've got to do this now." I said, "Alright, fine." This was a labor of love. There was no money involved in this at all. It didn't take that long to do. I was happy to do it.

The film premiered in Moscow in 2001 and then in New York at the Whitney Museum in December 2001. It was great. We got a terrific audience. Now it's on tour, between now and 2005 it's touring the world because the whole Unseen Cinema is touring the world. It's been in Hungary, Australia, New Zealand; it's going to be in England, France, and Germany. There's this huge schedule which you can see on my Web site which is Antheil.org. We have the schedule up for all the showings. It's doing very well.

The final coda to that is that in November of 2002, a group of students from the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore wanted to do a performance live with the film. So they contacted me, and again as a labor of love, I cut down the music even more, because they couldn't play it as fast as the studio version I had given to Bruce They had to do it a bit slower, not being computers, so I cut the music some more, gave it to them, they rehearsed it, and these students just played the hell out of it. Such an amazing job. They premiered it at a conference for percussionists in Columbus Ohio in November of 2002. They invited me out there to speak and to help with the technical side. It was fabulous. These kids were great.

Again, even though it was at 9:30 in the morning, there was a very large audience, and a tremendous reception.

The movie itself has a lot of fast moving clips and then has a musical soundtrack. Do you think it's easier for us to watch it today because we are so used to the music video idea?

Absolutely, that's a great way of putting it. It looks like an early music video because the images are so abstract, so unconnected, and the music is very rhythmic and very propulsive. It doesn't have much to do with the images. The idea of abstract music and abstract images coming together is something that is much more acceptable to us. Much easier to watch because of MTV and all the crap we've been watching for 20 years on that.

We did an early showing of the film at Brandeis University, and there was a video artist in the artist, and he walked out shaking his head and said, "I don't have to do this anymore, they did it 75 years ago."

It really foreshadows techniques used in the 80's and 90's in music video. Also, when you put the music and the film together, it seems like they belong together. There are a lot of simultaneities and synchronicities between the music and the film. A friend of mine who is an audio writer pointed out that when you have random images and random sounds playing at the same time, the human mind will create the connection even if it's not there. He's absolutely right. Everytime you see this film, it's like, "Ohhh... that goes with that really well, doesn't it." These things crop up by themselves. There is the feeling that these two things belong together.

Do you think both the music and film are just portraying a certain era of a certain time in France, hitting it very well on the mark?

No, not really. I don't think it's all that French. I don't think there is anything about it except for some of the characters who appear in the film that really mark it as being French. It does mark it for the time, the era, but not the place, and there is certainly nothing French about the music. The music could be Russian, German, could be American. Probably American because it's got all sorts of ragtime themes in it. Fake jazz.

What unites them is not necessarily the place but the idea that they are both celebrations of machines. Celebrations of mechanical means of producing art. Which was becoming very big in the 20's. There were all these factories. The industrial revolution was in full swing. People were enamored with technology. Here were these two sets of people that were dependent on and celebrating and glorifying the technology of the time. I think that's what they have in common.

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