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.



Rhythm, as it is used in this context, I believe could mean a lot of different things. Out of pure curiosity I looked up Piet Mondrian’s artwork and found that he started in about 1909 with a sort of classic art that depicts landscapes, houses, and random scenery. He then abruptly stopped with this classic form of art and moved into a more modernist form. He primarily used geometric shapes and the three primary colors with back lines and lots of white space. However, his piece entitled Composition in Oval with Color Planes 1 ( is a bit different. You see a very set angular pattern within an oval, juxtaposing linear segments with some bent U shapes and blending/blurring the colors out to the softer curves of the oval. It’s like the idea of an old pachinko machine; where you drop the ball into the slot in the top and its luck of the draw as to which linear pegs it will hit on the way down. Depending on which segment the ball lands into depends on what prize you win, and also how much noise the machine will make. So in a way, the rhythm of the painting could be related in terms to the voyeur’s interpretation of how they see movement in the piece of art. As I have described is as a pachinko machine, I might hear the rhythm of the bouncing ball as it hits the pegs, rolls across the planes, or as it rocks back and forth in a slow decline of movement in one of the half pipe shapes.

As Butler says “But modernist art is far more indirect –it can make the world seem unfamiliar to us, as rearranged by the conventions of art” (Pg 2). This is to say, I believe, that Butler is trying to get at the main problem here which is that paintings and literature are not (to most) comparable but in using the word “seem” he suggests that they are because they are both forms of art. He suggests these interconnections between all art forms by titling most of the plays, artwork, poetry, and literature under the modernist movement. However there is a deeper symbiotic relationship in the way that all artists fall into a certain rhythm and then feed off each other’s similar creativity or, in a lot of cases, use their own art as an obstruction, forcing the onlooker’s mind to sort of flinch and think twice about what the artist might be trying to do. Picasso had it right when he said “To me there is no past and future in art” (11). All art –in all forms –can definitely be linked together by a sort of rise and fall of what is popular at the times, then years later someone tries to reenter that art form into the public’s view. Much like sound waves there is a rise and fall. I might even venture to say that seeing art is this sort of rhythm is the Modernist way of thinking of this, that is to say that time is illusive, art is timeless.

So there is both a mental rhythm and a physical rhythm, as in looking at it and seeing the strokes of the brush, there is a lot to be said. Like a musical composer must move his hands, arms, and body to orchestrate a symphony, so must an artist do the same with paint, brush and canvas and of course a  writer with his pen, paper, and imagination. People have a certain method to their creativity. Mondrian’s later paintings were said to have been influenced by jazz. One can see the connection between the staccato liveliness that moves across the canvas mixed with the white space in Broadway Boogie-Woogie ( It may not be a physical road map to any particular song but when listening to any upbeat jazz song you can see how Mondrian’s art would be created, especially when in comparison or side by side to the sheet music of the song that might have influenced Mondrian’s. Langston Hughes also syncopated his poetry with Jazz music, it was a common art form of the Harlem Renaissance; using the disjointed rhythm to add another layer of feeling to one’s piece. Mondrian’s idea is far from the first and far from the last time that artists will try to put rhythm into their art.

For those interested, Langston Hughes Jazz Poetry: