Carnegie Mellon University
November 13, 2015

Contemporary Ensemble To Host Rare Performance of “Daniel Variations” and “Ballet Mecanique”

By Dana Casto / School of Music / 412-268-4921 /
and Pam Wigley / College of Fine Arts / 412-268-1047 /

Daniel Curtis
Music Director Daniel Nesta Curtis (above and below) will conduct the concert at 7 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 22.

Carnegie Mellon University’s Contemporary Ensemble, under Music Director Daniel Nesta Curtis, will perform Steve Reich’s “Daniel Variations” and George Antheil’s “Ballet Mecanique” at 7 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 22, in the Alumni Concert Hall in CMU’s College of Fine Arts building.

Both compositions are written for four pianos and many percussion instruments, along with string, voice and clarinets. These two works are rarely performed due to the unusual combination of instruments and technical elements involved.

“Daniel Variations” (2006) addresses the 2002 beheading of Israeli-American journalist Daniel Pearl by terrorists in Pakistan. Involving four singers, the text of this work alternates between excerpts from the biblical Book of Daniel and text spoken by Pearl in a video taken by his captors just before he was beheaded.

Daniel Curtis

This performance will be the Pittsburgh premiere of “Daniel Variations,” a spiritual work that speaks directly to the tensions between Jewish and Islamic communities and the threat that terrorism poses to journalistic free speech worldwide. In addition, this performance will feature projected visual elements created by local new-media artist Doug Bernstein.

“Ballet Mecanique” (1924) was originally composed for 16 player-pianos and was written to accompany a Dadaist film by Fernand Leger. In 1953, Antheil created the version that the CMU Contemporary Ensemble will perform, with the 16 player-piano parts reduced to four, played by human musicians.

The Contemporary Ensemble will perform the score with a live screening of the Leger film projected overhead, 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 multidisciplinary collaboration can challenge and enrich live performance.

The project is supported by a grant from the STUDIO for Creative Inquiry’s Frank-Ratchye Fund for Arts @ the Frontier. This concert is free and open to the public.