George Antheil Ballet Mécanique Player Rolls (MSS 61), 1925

Prelimiinary finding aid

Summary Information

Curtis Institute of Music Archives
Antheil, George, 1900-1959
George Antheil Ballet Mécanique player rolls
MSS 61
1.0 Linear feet (1 photo box)
The collection consists of three piano player rolls containing the first edition of George Antheil’s Ballet Mécanique for pianola only, dedicated to Mary Louise Curtis Bok. In addition to the handwritten dedication the first roll contains an explanatory introduction about the purpose and use of the rolls, which were meant to be heard by musicians only.

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Historical note

George Antheil was an American composer who began his music career in Europe. Mary Louise Curtis Bok, who founded the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia in 1924, was a major patron in Antheil’s early career. Antheil’s Ballet Mécaniqu was originally composed as the soundtrack to the film Ballet Mécaniqu by the French Dadaist painter Fernand Léger and cinematographer Dudley Murphy, which premiered as a silent film in Vienna in 1924.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

Curtis Institute of Music Archives 2016

1726 Locust Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103



The player rolls were among Mary Louise Curtis Bok’s personal records that were kept at the Curtis Institute of Music.

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Related Materials

Related archival materials

Correspondence between George Antheil and Mary Louise Curtis Bok can be found in the Founders Papers.

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Controlled Access Headings

Personal Name(s)

  • Zimbalist, Mary Louise Curtis Bok, 1876-1970


  • Antheil, George, 1900-1959. Ballet mecanique
  • Player piano rolls.

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Collection Inventory

Piano player rolls 1925

Pleyela no 8983 (with handwritten dedication and foreword 1925

Transcription of the foreword

“This is the first edition of the Ballet Mécanique and is limited to 20 copies. It is the 16 piano part alone none of the xylophones, drums, and other percussion being written into or cut into this part. These are the master rolls which run the 16 pianolas electrically from a common control (switching on 16 or 1, as might be necessary to the sonority) together with which the other percussion is synchronized.

Therefore in general I should like to have only musicians hear the rolls before their proper orchestral presentation, because only to a musician will certain long parts of repitition obviously and immediately appear as accompaniment to an invisible other percussion (i.e. xylophones) which does not appear in these rolls. In general I would also say that the parts of these rolls in which many notes are cut are solo parts, especially the beginning of roll III.

This edition is the “orchestra-piano” edition and cost 500 dollars to make. It was cut by Pleyel in July and August, 1925. The second edition of 400 rolls appears next month (January 1926) complete (with all the rest of the percussion cut in) but this will be simply for private and not public performance. Pleyels considered it worth while to place in their edition!.

George Antheil, Paris 1925″

Pleyela no 8984
Pleyela no 8985

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