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Sun nov 22
7:00 pm

Carnegie Mellon University Contemporary Ensemble

Alumni Concert Hall, College of Fine Arts
5000 Forbes Avenue Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213

Carnegie Mellon University 
Contemporary Ensemble
Daniel Nesta Curtis, Music Director

CMU Percussion Ensemble
CMU Collaborative Piano Departmen

Steve Reich Daniel Variations 
George Antheil Ballet Mecanique

Free and open to the public.

CMU Contemporary Ensemble, under the direction of Music Director Daniel Nesta Curtis, will perform Steve Reich’s Daniel Variations and George Antheil’s Ballet Mecanique - two works rarely performed due to the unusual combination of instruments and technical elements involved. Both compositions are written for four pianos and multiple percussion, among other instruments, and this performance will feature the CMU Percussion Ensemble and CMU Collaborative Piano department.  These two works grapple with current issues, especially pertinent to the city of Pittsburgh and will be performed with projected visual elements newly-commissioned for this performance.  

Ballet Mecanique (1924) was originally composed for 16 player pianos and was written to accompany a dadaist film by Fernand Leger.  At the time, Antheil lacked the technology needed to pull of such a spectacle of early mechanical instruments; several minutes into the piece, the player pianos would inevitably become uncoordinated and so he was forced to revise the score several times.  In 1953, Antheil created the version of the piece that the CMU Contemporary Ensemble will perform, with the 16 player piano parts reduced to four piano parts to be played by human musicians.  Similarly, the score and film were never experienced together during Antheil’s lifetime, even though this was the original intention of the filmmaker and composer.  The film ended up being 20 minutes long, the score nearly 30 minutes long, and neither filmmaker nor composer would compromise.  CMU will perform the score with a live screening of the Leger film projected overhead, also in a revised, slightly lengthened form.  Seen together, Ballet Mecanique will boldly test the boundaries that separate human and mechanical expression and explore the ways in which technology and multi-disciplinary collaboration can challenge and enrich live performance.  

Steve Reich’s Daniel Variations (2006) addresses the beheading of the Israeli-American journalist Daniel Pearl by terrorists in Pakistan in 2002.  Involving four singers, the poignant text of this work alternates between excerpts from the biblical Book of Daniel and text spoken by Daniel Pearl in a video taken by his captors just before he was beheaded.  This performance will entail the Pittsburgh premiere of Daniel Variations, a spiritual work that speaks directly to real and persistent tensions between Jewish and Islamic communities and the threat that terrorism poses to journalistic free speech worldwide.  Supported by a grant from CMU’s Studio for Creative Inquiry, this performance will also feature projected visual elements created by local new-media artist Doug Bernstein.