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Doing Good by the "Bad Boy": Performing George Antheil's Ballet mécanique with Robots

The Ballet mécanique by George Antheil was a musical composition far ahead of its time. Written in 1924, it required technology that didn't exist: multiple synchronized player pianos. Not until 1999, with the aid of computers and MIDI, could the piece be performed the way the composer envisioned it. Since then, it has been played over 20 times in North America and Europe. But its most unusual performance was the result of a collaboration between the authors: one, the music technologist who revived the piece and the other, a musical robotics expert. At the request of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, they built a completely automated 27-piece orchestra, which played the piece nearly 100 times, without a serious failure.

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