Interview with Merce Cunningham, 1978-12-15/21

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Interview with Merce Cunningham, 1978-12-15/21
Merce Cunningham Dance Company (Associated name)
Cunningham, Merce (Interviewee)
Vaughan, David, 1924- (Interviewer)

Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation Collection. Audio materials

Dates / Origin
Date Created: 1978-07-07
Date Created: 1978-12-13
Library locations
Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound
Shelf locator: *LTC-A 1446
Brown, Carolyn, 1927-
Cage, John
Cunningham, Merce
Dilley, Barbara
Dunn, Judith, 1933-1983
Farber, Viola
Ichiyanagi, Toshi, 1933-
Kerr, Catherine, 1948-
Mumma, Gordon, 1935-
Nancarrow, Conlon, 1912-1997 -- Studies
Oliveros, Pauline, 1932-
Rauschenberg, Robert, 1925-2008
Merce Cunningham Dance Company
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Crises (Choreographic work : Cunningham)
Cross currents (Choreographic work : Cunningham)
Event (Choreographic work : Cunningham)
How to pass, kick, fall and run (Choreographic work : Cunningham)
Nightwandering (Choreographic work : Cunningham)
Open session (Choreographic work : Cunningham)
Paired (Choreographic work : Cunningham)
Rune (Choreographic work : Cunningham)
Story (Choreographic work : Cunningham)
Winterbranch (Choreographic work : Cunningham)
Arena theater
Content: David Vaughan interviews Merce Cunningham in New York, New York, on December 15 and 21, 1978. This interview was created as research for David Vaughan's book, Merce Cunningham: Fifty years (New York, Aperture).
Content: Title and dates provided by cataloger based on audition and handwritten and typed notes on original container.
Content: Handwritten and typed notes on original original container: "David Vaughan: Interviews with Merce Cunningham ; A. 15 December 1978 ; Merce Cunningham ; Studio, Westbeth, New York ; B. 21 December 1978".
Venue: Originally recorded at Merce Cunningham's Westbeth Studio in, New York, New York, 1978 December 15 and 21.
Content: Dubbed from an unidentified original.
Acquisition: Gift; Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation, 2011-2012.
Physical Description
Extent: 1 audio cassette (64 minutes) : analog
Sound quality is fair to mostly good; at times the interviewee is muffled or speaks away from the recording microphone and there are background noises.
Streaming file 1, Dec. 15, 1978: Merce Cunningham speaks with David Vaughan about the descriptive names of the movement phrases in his Rune (1959); they speak about the reasons for the infrequency of performances of Rune, including an anecdote about a reaction to Rune from his [Merce Cunningham Dance Company] especially Barbara [Dilley Lloyd]; Cunningham speaks briefly about his extensive choreographic notes on Rune; Cunningham speaks about the chance procedures that determined when dancers were attached to the elastic bands in Crises (1960); John Cage and Gordon Mumma finding the music for Crises, Conlon Nancarrow's Rhythm studies for player piano, at the New York Public Library; they speak about Robert Rauschenberg's costumes for Crises; Cunningham speaks about the qualities of dancers Carolyn Brown and Viola Farber, especially in Rune and Crises; more about the movements and movement qualities of Crises; Cunningham speaks briefly about his choreographic notes for Crises; he speaks about dancer Catherine Kerr's movement quality as being suited to Crises; they speak about the "jagged" quality of Rune; Cunningham speaks about the challenges of creating Rune and Judith Dunn's encouragement of him to complete it; briefly, Dunn's illness; they speak about the cast of Cage's Theater piece (1960), an event at Black Mountain College; Cunningham speaks about choreographing and performing a duet with Brown, Nightwandering (1958), at the opera house in Stockholm, as well as lists the other works performed there; they briefly list the other locations in Europe where Cunningham toured after Stockholm; the 1958-59 residency at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he was commissioned to create From the poems of white stone, and, Gambit for dancers and orchestra with music by Ben Johnston; more on From the poems and Gambit, including the costumes and the reasons these works were not performed again; Cunningham speaks about his foot injury while at the University of Illinois; they speak about Cunningham's studio in New York while he was away that winter; they speak about the location stops for the tour in Europe in the summer of 1960; briefly, the solos he choreographed for Brown while in Europe, Hand birds (1960), and, Waka (1960); ends abruptly. Streaming file 2, Dec. 21, 1978: Merce Cunningham speaks with David Vaughan briefly about his role in the ending section of his Nocturnes (1956); they speak about possible music he used in the dances he made for Paul Goodman's plays at the Living Theatre; they speak about Cunningham's notes for Field dances (1963), and then for Story (1963); Cunningham speaks about the inspiration for Story; the original indeterminant choreographic order of Winterbranch (1964) and later versions with a set order; he gives an anecdote about Pauline Oliveros performing on one tour as the "monster" in Winterbranch; his reasons for relinquishing the use of indeterminant choreographic order in his works in the years following the [Merce Cunningham Dance Company's] 1964 world tour; reasons that Story was not included in his ongoing repertory after the world tour but why it was performed many times for the two years that it was in repertory; why he didn't select sections from Story to be part of his Events; briefly on reconstructing Scramble (1967); he gives a brief anecdote about working with accompanist, Toshi Ichiyanagi, as well as a mention of accompanist Jack Jackson; they speak about some of the props that Bob [Robert Rauschenberg] made for a section in Story; Cunningham speaks about a cue sheet for Paired (1964) that [Rauschenberg] created by color coding and the incorporation of paint in the performances of it; [brief interruption]; Cunningham speaks about the difficulty of keeping sections in mind, but not in linear order, for performing his indeterminant based works while on tour; he speaks briefly about the indeterminant structure of Open session (1964); the set structure and rhythmic phrases of Cross currents (1964), and reviving it based on his choreographic notes; he speaks about making Cross currents, Winterbranch, Open session and Paired to accommodate the varied performance spaces on the world tour; his use of chance procedures, theater in the round spacing, and timing methods for the choreography of How to pass, kick, fall and run (1965); they speak briefly about the choreographic order of Place (1966); ends abruptly.
Type of Resource
Sound recording
RLIN/OCLC: 913960392
NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b20732896
Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): e81a3970-b8f9-0133-ab4f-60f81dd2b63c
Rights Statement
This item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).

Item timeline of events

  • 1978: Created (Approximate)
  • 2024: Found by you!
  • 2025

MLA Format

Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound, The New York Public Library. "Interview with Merce Cunningham, 1978-12-15/21" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1978 - 1978.

Chicago/Turabian Format

Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound, The New York Public Library. "Interview with Merce Cunningham, 1978-12-15/21" New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed June 20, 2024.

APA Format

Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound, The New York Public Library. (1978 - 1978). Interview with Merce Cunningham, 1978-12-15/21 Retrieved from

Wikipedia Citation

<ref name=NYPL>{{cite web | url= | title= (sound recording) Interview with Merce Cunningham, 1978-12-15/21, (1978 - 1978)|author=Digital Collections, The New York Public Library |accessdate=June 20, 2024 |publisher=The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations}}</ref>

Interview with Merce Cunningham, 1978-12-15/21