Interview with Merce Cunningham, 1978-06-20/1978-07-07

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Interview with Merce Cunningham, 1978-06-20/1978-07-07
Merce Cunningham Dance Company (Associated name)
Cunningham, Merce (Interviewee)
Vaughan, David, 1924- (Interviewer)

Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation Collection. Audio materials

Dates / Origin
Date Created: 1978-06-20
Date Created: 1978-06-27
Date Created: 1978-07-07
Library locations
Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound
Shelf locator: *LTC-A 1446
Brown, Carolyn, 1927-
Cage, John
Charlip, Remy
Churchill, Mili
Cunningham, Merce
McKayle, Donald, 1930-
Satie, Erik, 1866-1925 -- ParadeRag-time; arrangedRag-time; arranged Rag-time; arranged
Schaeffer, Pierre, 1910-1995 -- Symphonie pour un homme seul
Skinner, Joan
Stravinsky, Igor, 1882-1971 -- Svadebka
Tudor, David, 1926-1996
Black Mountain College (Black Mountain, N.C.)
Brandeis University
Louisiana State University (Baton Rouge, La.)
Merce Cunningham Dance Company
Banjo (Choreographic work : Cunningham)
Collage (Choreographic work : Cunningham)
Dime a dance (Choreographic work : Cunningham)
Noces (Choreographic work : Cunningham)
Pool of darkness (Choreographic work : Cunningham)
Rag-time parade (Choreographic work : Cunningham)
Septet (Choreographic work : Cunningham)
Sixteen dances for soloist and company of three (Choreographic work : Cunningham)
Solo suite in space and time (Choreographic work : Cunningham)
Suite by chance (Choreographic work : Cunningham)
Variation (Choreographic work : Cunningham)
Dance -- Study and teaching
Music and dance
Content: David Vaughan interviews Merce Cunningham, probably in New York, New York, on June 20, 27, and July 7, 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: "1. David Vaughan: Interview with Merce Cunningham, 20 June 1978 ; 2. 27 June 1978 ; Concluded ; 7 July".
Venue: Recorded in, [New York, New York], 1978 June 20, 27, and July 7.
Acquisition: Gift; Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation, 2011-2012.
Physical Description
Extent: 1 audiocassette (93 minutes) : analog
Sound quality is mostly good; at times the interviewee is muffled or speaks away from the recording microphone but is mostly audible.
Streaming file 1, Jun. 20, 1978: Merce Cunningham speaks with David Vaughan about Pool of darkness (1950) with music by Ben Weber, including the serious tone of the piece and its choreography; he speaks about dancers he worked with at the time and his distaste for the mannerisms of dancers trained in the [Martha] Graham Technique; they mention Before dawn, a work perfomed on the same program as Pool of darkness; he speaks about teaching at Louisiana State University for a summer course and creating Waltz (1950), and Rag-time parade (1950) there; subsequent performances of Rag-time parade at Cooper Union including the cast of dancers as well as the relationship of his choreography to Erik Satie's music; they speak about other possible works by Cunningham performed at Cooper Union that year; more on the group of dancers in the Rag-time parade performances at Cooper: Remy Charlip, Marianne Preger-Simon, Sudy Bond, Rachel Rosenthal, François Canton, [Julie Walter]; they list later casts of Rag-time parade including Carolyn Brown, Anita Dencks, Paul Taylor, and Charlip; Cunningham lists the original cast of Sixteen dances for soloist and company of three (1951): Anneliese Widman, Dorothy Berea, and Mili Churchill; other dancers who performed in Sixteen dances, including Brown and Natanya [Neumann]; they speak about Cunningham's decision to costume the dancers for the first time in leotards rather than in skirts and dresses, and Churchill's resigning as a result; Cunningham speaks about his use of chance methods in ordering the choreography for Sixteen dances; his memory of the dancers' response to the chance methods including Joan Skinner's seeming enjoyment of the piece, they speak about John Cage's score for Sixteen dances and the orchestra musicians' response to his music; the costumes and props for Sixteen dances including a chart made by Charlip to direct the performers with these aspects; Cunningham speaks about the coat that he wore as a costume in the section, "the ballad of the odious warrior"; more on the nine sections and ordering them; he speaks about the interludes, challenges in, and complexity of Sixteen dances; an anecdote on Anna Sokolow and Dorothy Bird in response to another audence member's dislike of the piece; more about how the orchestra musicians disliked the piece; Cunningham speaks about his solo Variation (1951), that he created by using chance methods to order classical ballet steps including an anecdote about a performance of it; Cunningham speaks about making Suite by chance (1953) that was previewed in a 1952 performance; they list the original cast of Suite; Cunningham speaks about Christian Wolff's electronic music for Suite as well as the complexity of his choreography as being determined by chance; they speak more about when Suite was created and performed; ends abruptly. Streaming file 2, Jun. 27 and Jul. 7, 1978: Merce Cunningham speaks with David Vaughan on June 2, 1978, about his Collage (1952), commissioned by Leonard Bernstein for the Festival of [Creative] Arts at Brandeis University; the costumes, cast and choreography for Collage, including his use of chance methods; Cunningham speaks about remakes of Collage; Cunningham speaks about the music for Collage, excerpts from Symphonie pour un homme seul, a piece of musique concréte by Pierre Schaeffer with Pierre Henry; he speaks about some of the dancers who performed in Collage over the years; challenges he experienced, due to the configuration of the theater, during the Brandeis University performances; the dancers in his Noces (1952), and rehearsals for it in New York before the Brandeis Festival; he speaks about how the Noces choreography folllows the structure of the [Igor] Stravinsky music, [Svadebka]; an anecdote on dancer Donald McKayle and working with student dancers in the performances of Noces; Cunningham speaks about his choice, moving forward, to use only dancers that he trained as a result of this performance; rehearsing Noces using pre-recorded music; an anecdote on the car that Cage and Cunningham used to go between the Burnsville Summer School and Black Mountain College to teach during the summer of 1952; the musical comedy performed that summer at Black Mountain, [Occupe-toi de Brunhilde]; briefly, on meeting Bob [Robert] Rasuchenberg at Black Mountain; other artists that he met at Black Mountain over the years; Cunningham speaks briefly about how Cage met David Tudor; Cunningham speaks about meeting Carolyn Brown including her attending his class in both Denver and New York; Cunningham speaks about his choreography for Solo suite in space and time (1953) and how challenging it was to dance; Cunningham speaks about teaching at Black Mountain during the summer of 1953 and bringing his own dancers from New York to rehearse there; he lists the works performed at Black Mountain in 1953 and they speak about the performances taking place in the dining hall; they speak about this summer marking the beginning of his [Merce Cunningham Dance] Company; Cunningham speaks about David Tudor playing the music for his Banjo (1953) in a rehearsal; he speaks about the independent relationship between the music and dance for Dime a dance (1953); they speak briefly about a rarely performed solo that Cunningham called the Oriental dance; ca. 40:22, ends abruptly; ca. 40:23, start of interview on July 7, 1978; they speak about a solo from Dime a dance that Cunningham would perform as an encore; they briefly discuss and recall Cage's activities at Black Mountain during the summer of 1953; they speak about how Cunningham's titles for the parts relate to Satie's musical titles in his Septet (1953); Cunningham continues to speak about the choreography and music for Septet; ends abruptly.
Type of Resource
Sound recording
RLIN/OCLC: 913960220
NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b20732893
Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): 40ef6990-b8f9-0133-4e91-60f81dd2b63c
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
  • 2024: Found by you!
  • 2025

MLA Format

Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound, The New York Public Library. "Interview with Merce Cunningham, 1978-06-20/1978-07-07" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1978.

Chicago/Turabian Format

Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound, The New York Public Library. "Interview with Merce Cunningham, 1978-06-20/1978-07-07" New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed April 16, 2024.

APA Format

Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound, The New York Public Library. (1978). Interview with Merce Cunningham, 1978-06-20/1978-07-07 Retrieved from

Wikipedia Citation

<ref name=NYPL>{{cite web | url= | title= (sound recording) Interview with Merce Cunningham, 1978-06-20/1978-07-07, (1978)|author=Digital Collections, The New York Public Library |accessdate=April 16, 2024 |publisher=The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations}}</ref>

Interview with Merce Cunningham, 1978-06-20/1978-07-07