Antheil (Make up Blog)

Emily Thomson is spot on in her statement that “audiences [are] challenged to test their ideas about the distinction between music and noise.” Although within that Antheil also showed his audiences that the void that is created by lack of melodic flow and instead made into an atonal mess, it filled with pictures that don’t otherwise need to be shown through dance or on a screen. The audience already pictures a fire truck or ambulance when they hear the sirens or can visualize a clock when they hear the tic-tock. He, I would hope, is trying to prove the point that although something may be considered “noise” that it still can be composed in a way to wake the senses and open up a spectrum of visual art.

I would argue with Thomson on one point and that is that one does not necessarily have to be a “perceptive listener” to hear or understand what Antheil is attempting to do with his music. The disturbances in his music, his use of sirens, birds, or other things that are considered “noise” is used as a way to disrupt the listener. Like cleansing the pallet, the listeners take in this disruption and are forced to think about what constitutes music. How exactly can we find musicality in our surroundings, what kind of sounds are music and why was it made that way? In the same why that English literature has its “cannon authors” and that in turn has been questioned over the years, Antheil did the same thing in questioning what exactly can be used as an instrument. It does not take a “perceptive listener” to hear this rebellion.

As it is said in Modernism and Music, “Now in order to paint musical pictures one must admit right at the outset that the only canvas of music can be time. Music does not exist all at once like a painting but it unrolls itself. […] In other words time is our musical canvas” (71). This idea encompasses a more historical outlook on the idea of music. It makes the idea of “noise” in music more logically placed there than the flowing notes of some other instrument. To think of music as time, and as we live that is how we measure out lives, noise surround our lives every day. The things we become accustomed to, ambient noise, is something that Antheil is trying to bring to the forefront of the listeners mind. Make them more aware of the noise they live in.

Finding new sounds through new instruments reminds me of the “spiral” the Antheil mentions. He and other “acousticians and engineers” attempt to be the pinpoint of that spiral that extends out through all their listeners. We see this point proven when Thomsen says, “When they took those tools out of the laboratory and put them to work in a world filled with sound, they, too, challenged listeners to listen in new ways.” It is true, when one introduces new sounds or music into the general public that they then accept of reject it but either way, those words of those new sounds then spread it out wards just like the spiral. This spiral does not consist of just one pinpoint then but multiple little one, much like a connect the dots. These “tools” then are used in new ways to make music, to contradict what people are used to hearing and to challenge the listener, yet again.

Antheil is considered a modernist artist because of the way that he rebelled against the classical form of music. He did much to challenge not only himself but his listener. He also brought forth the idea that his listener could be a modernist too just by accepting this new form of art. Although most felt that conforming to the label of “modernist” would be the opposite of what they wanted to do by initially rebelling against labels, Antheil truly falls under the spell of this movement. And although at times he loses his reader, he does do one thing correctly, he emphasizes that music is not decidedly just one way or another, but can be considered many things at once. It is all dependant on the listener and the composer.


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