Bad Boy of Music

George Antheil

This is a bemused and bittersweet look back at his own astounding life by George Antheil, the composer of the scandalous modernist sensation “Ballet Mécanique,” who was hailed as a genius by the likes of Erik Satie, Ezra Pound, and Jean Cocteau. His autobiography is a strange combination of high avant-garde Paris hobnobbing with charmingly populist Saturday Evening Post prose interspersed with lots of music theory and counterpoint presented in an unpretentious, Everyman sort of way. The Trenton, New Jersey-born one-time concert-piano prodigy who at age 21 played his European recitals with a loaded revolver on top of the Steinway, was a protégé of Stravinksy. Antheil escaped Hitler in 1933 and settled into semi-obscurity doing soundtracks in Hollywood. Once in screenland, he went on to introduce Salvador Dali to Cecil B. DeMille (who promptly kissed Dali’s hand and proclaimed him “king of the Surrealists”), supported his composing with a nationally syndicated “Miss Lonelyhearts” column, published books on “endocrine criminology,” and designed a patented radio-control device for torpedoes with Hungarian sex bomb Hedy Lamarr. SS

Publisher: Samuel French
Paperback: 378 pages