George Antheil

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Antheil, George (b Trenton, NJ, 1900; d NY, 1959). Amer. composer of Polish descent. Caused furore in Europe in 1920s at his pf. recitals with his comps. called Airplane Sonata and Mechanisms. His Ballet méchanique, comp. 1923–4 and f.p. Paris 1926, was designed as film mus. but was rev. for the concert hall (scored for 8 pf., pianola, 8 xyls., 2 doorbells, and sound of aeroplane propeller). For NY première in 1927 he doubled the pfs., added car-horns and anvils, and used a real propeller. A final rev. (1953) reduced the pfs. to 4 but incl. tape of a jet engine. Returned to USA 1933 and wrote Hollywood film scores from 1936. Became more conservative. Works incl. 6 syms., ballets, 3-act opera Volpone (1950–2), and 2 earlier 3-act operas, pf. conc., vn. conc., str. qts., and vn. sonatas. Also wrote detective stories, a study of the glandular abnormalities of criminals, and a daily column of advice to the lovelorn. Autobiography Bad Boy of Music (NY, 1945).

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George Antheil (ăn´tīl), 1900–1959, American composer, b. Trenton, N.J. He went to Europe in 1920 and became known for his iconoclastic approach to music. In 1927 a performance of his Ballet mécanique, scored for player piano, car horns, airplane propellers, and the like, caused a great stir among critics and concertgoers in New York City. Much of his early work, such as the opera Transatlantic (1930), reveals the influence of jazz. Antheil's later compositions include more traditional symphonies and sonatas. From 1936 on, he also composed music for Hollywood films. A man of diverse talents Antheil and actress Hedy Lamarr collaborated during World War II on the invention of a torpedo guidance system and an antiaircraft shell.

See his autobiography, Bad Boy of Music (1945, repr. 1990); biography by L. Whitesitt (1983).