Antheil tells about his earliest hatchet job

Not all of my earliest musical memories were pleasant. For instance, upon Christmas day, 1903, I made early demonstration that insofar as music was concerned I was to be no one to be trifled with, but I had consequently to take the normal punishment invariably meted out to premature original thinking.

Upon this Christmas morning I had come down from upstairs only to discover that I had – contrary to my wishes – received from Santa Claus a large toy piano.

Now, frankly, this had been very inconsiderate of Santa Claus. For the Christmas before I had also wanted a “big real piano with real black keys too” and Santa Claus had brought me a miserable toy piano that was no real piano at all. One mistake upon his part might be excused, two mistakes of the same kind, however, was a direct insult. This Christmas a slightly larger toy piano in the place of the “real” piano I had wanted, but this was if anything an enlargement of the insult.

I promptly spirited it away down to our cellar and chopped it up with father’s hatchet. To smithereens.

My parents do not seem to be able to recall whether or no I now eliminated my namesake’s behaviors and promptly admitted

“I cannot tell a lie – I did it with my little hatchet.”

In any case mother, alarmed at the depth of my babyish passion, immediately took steps to curb it. I was spanked soundly.

Here, however, I had elaborately and with malice aforethought hung up the musical motto which I was ever afterwards to unswervingly follow:-

All or nothing!

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