The Festival American Musique/Ballet Mecanique, in Maastricht, The Netherlands, began on April 27, 2002, and came to a thundering end on May 5, when the Ensemble '88, conducted by René Gulikers, performed Antheil's Ballet mécanique.
The pianola parts were handled by two MIDI-controlled player grand pianos, custom-modified by Dr. Jürgen Hocker, assisted by 14 human pianists. In this way, it was similar to the performances of the piece by the Ensemble Moderne around Europe in 1996 and 1999.
Here is a report from the festival administrator, Lejo Nijsten:
It was a big success...the piece was played perfectly with the two pianolas. Prof Hocker prepared the instruments so that before the piece starts, he shows four pulses on his PC screen at the right tempo. The conductor sees these pulses, so he can give the downbeat exacly on time for the musicians to start synchronously.
We used three table ventilators as propellers: we pushed a tea spoon (for the "metal" sound) or a wooden stick against the blades. We taped microphones on the spoon and the sticks and amplifed them a little bit. The sound was great!
For the bells, we took seven doorbells and let them jingle against chromatic metallic staves that we set up like xylophone keys.
We had a fast-acting siren with a brake on it, to start and cut off quickly. Our local symphony orchestra actually had such a thing!
And our conductor did a great job: after the big pause he counted exactly until the right moment to start again.
We hope now that we can play the piece in other locations. It's a pity that it only was performed one time.
View a program for the full festival here