Fernand Léger

F.: Dudley Murphy; Mu.: George Antheil; Mo.: Fernand Léger E Dudley Murphy; Int.: Kiki De Montparnasse, Katherine Murphy, Dudley Murphy 35mm. L.: 375 M. D.: 18’13’’ A 18 F/S.

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

George Antheil’s original 1924 score “Ballet pour instruments mécaniques et percussions” called for 16 player pianos, a melange of percussion instruments, and two human pianists, supplemented by a siren, airplane propellers, and electric bells. Antheil had described his work as “the first piece of music that has been composed out of and for machines, on earth.” The score was originally supposed to accompany the film even though, famously, it never really did. Presumably due to communication problems between Fernand Légerand Antheil, the score ended up being almost twice as long as the film. In 1952 Antheil revised the score for human performance but because it is a widely difficult work to execute both in terms of personnel and equipment, it has very rarely been played together with the film without the use of computers or multi-track recordings. In this performance, everything, with the exception of the propellers’ sound, will be played live and by humans, including the piano, xilophone and siren parts. The score calls for: glockenspiel, small airplane propeller sound, large airplane propeller sound, gong, cymbal, woodblock, triangle, military drum, tambourine, small electric bell, large electric bell, tenor drum, bass drum, 2 xylophones, 4 pianos and siren.

Timothy Brock

The story of avant-garde films is rather simple. They are a reaction against films with screenplays and actors. They offer imagination and play as opposed to the commercial nature of other types of film. And that is not all. They are the painters’ and poets’ revenge. In an art such as this one where the image should be everything and instead it becomes secondary to a fictional anecdote, artists had to defend themselves and prove that the arts of the imagination, relegated to being accessory, could on their own and with their own means create films without scripts by treating the moving image as the main character. (…) Whatever Ballet mécanique may be (…) the goal is to avoid the average, to be free of the dead weight that constitutes other films’ reason for being. To break away from elements that are not purely cinematographic. To let imagination run free no matter the risk, to create adventure on the screen as do poetry and painting every day.

Fernand Léger, “Fonctions de la peinture”, Gouthier, Paris, 1965

Copy From

Score by George Antheil. With the permission of Ricordi - Bmg