How did composers react to the violence of The First World War? In the last show in our series on the Great War, we’re listening to the sounds that emerged from its ashes. In Vienna concert halls and New York jazz clubs, from Maurice Ravel’s piano elegies to Igor Stravinsky’s explosive symphonies, we’re coursing through the composers who defined a modern era, reacting to the terrible violence of total warfare through art.
It’s a twenty-year-long journey that begins in Paris in 1914—as bombs began to fall and mass media began to rise—with Ravel’s Le Tombeau, a swirling piano suite dedicated to friends of Ravel who died in the war. We’ll move across the Atlantic and hear George Antheil’s bombastic Ballet Mécanique, which brought the noise of war—a whir of plane propellers, sirens, and an army of player pianos—directly into the concert hall. Finally, we’re making the great transatlantic jazz connection: how Duke Ellington, Josephine Baker, and others pointed a new way out of the darkness.
Audio of the interview and Ballet Mécanique can be found here.