Interview with Jean Erdman, 1983-06-08

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Interview with Jean Erdman, 1983-06-08
Merce Cunningham Dance Company (Associated name)
Erdman, Jean (Interviewee)
Vaughan, David, 1924- (Interviewer)

Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation Collection. Audio materials

Dates / Origin
Date Created: 1983-06-08
Library locations
Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound
Shelf locator: *LTC-A 1443
Cage, John
Cage, John -- Forever and sunsmell
Cage, John -- no. 5 Imaginary landscapeno. 5no. 5
Cage, Xenia
Campbell, Joseph, 1904-1987
Cunningham, Merce
Erdman, Jean
Joyce, James, 1882-1941 -- Finnegans wake
Martha Graham Dance Company
Ad lib (Choreographic work : Cunningham and Erdman)
Creature on a journey (Choreographic work : Erdman)
Credo in us (Choreographic work : Cunningham and Erdman)
Forever and sunsmell (Choreographic work : Erdman)
Ophelia (Choreographic work : Erdman)
Portrait of a lady (Choreographic work : Erdman)
Seeds of brightness (Choreographic work : Cunningham and Erdman)
Transformations of Medusa (Choreographic work : Erdman)
Improvisation in dance
Music and dance
Content: David Vaughan interviews Jean Erdman in her apartment in New York, New York, on June 8, 1983. This interview was created as research for David Vaughan's book, Merce Cunningham: Fifty years (New York, Aperture).
Content: Title and date provided by cataloger based on audition and handwritten note on original container and cassette.
Content: Handwritten note on original container and cassette: "1: David Vaughan: Interview with Jean Erdman ; 8 June 1983 ; New York".
Venue: Recorded in, New York, New York, 1983 June 8.
Acquisition: Gift; Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation, 2011-2012.
Citation/reference: Forms part of the Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation Collection.
Physical Description
Extent: 1 audiocassette (49 minutes) : analog
Sound quality is good; there are some distant background sounds.
Streaming file 1, side 1: Begins abruptly; Jean Erdman speaks with David Vaughan about Credo in us (1942), the duet she created with Merce Cunningham; performing Credo in us at Bennington College, in New York, and at the Arts Club of Chicago; they speak about the change of title for Cunningham's Renaissance testimonials (1942); they speak about the photographs taken for the Bennington Concert and the costume design drawings for Credo in us by Charlotte Trowbridge; Erdman describes a lift in Credo in us; briefly, more on their shared concerts including the opening dance, Seeds of brightness (1942), and their improvised piece, Ad lib (1942); [brief phone interruption]; Erdman continues to speak about the choreographic structure for Ad lib that was based on jazz music and improvisation; more on the music and rehearsals for Ad lib; Erdman speaks about the concert at the Arts Club of Chicago including her solo works, Transformations of Medusa (1942), Forever and sunsmell (1943) with a score by John Cage, and Creature on a journey (1945) with a score by Lou Harrison; [brief phone interruption]; Erdman speaks about Cage writing the music for Credo in us while staying at her apartment; more on Credo in us, including the relationship between the choreography and Cage's composition, and the underlying narrative; Vaughan relates the Credo narrative with Cunningham's Four walls (1944) and speaks about how Cunningham titles his works by referencing [James] Joyce; Erdman speaks about how Xenia [Cage] knew her husband Joe [Joseph Campbell] prior to all of them living in New York; Erdman briefly speaks about Cage teaching composition classes at her dance studio; Erdman tells an anecdote about the music during a performance of a series of five "Serenades" directed by Cunningham at the Museum of Modern Art in 1943; she speaks about the encouragement from Cage and Campbell to do a concert with Cunningham outside of [Martha] Graham's [Dance] Company; her enjoyment of dancing with Cunningham and his physical energy; Erdman speaks briefly about Cunningham joining the Graham Company; she speaks about Graham's choreographic process, including changes over time that allowed for dancers to add their own input of movements; she speaks about meeting Graham as a student at Sarah Lawrence College; ends abruptly.Streaming file 2, side 2: Begins abruptly; Jean Erdman continues to speak with David Vaughan briefly about the dance classes and styles she was exposed to while growing up in Hawaii; she speaks about Erik Hawkins teaching the first ballet classes at the Martha Graham [Dance] studio; she speaks about how John Cage persuaded Merce Cunningham to not join a ballet company; briefly on the friendships and artistic conversations between herself, Joseph Campbell, the Cage's and Cunningham; she speaks about Campbell's interest in Finnegans Wake; [brief recording break]; they speak about how Campbell's interest in James Joyce's writings may have been influential on Cunningham; she speaks about the opera idea that Cage suggested to Campbell, but never completed, that marked the end of Cage's era of "expressive music" into exploring "chance"; Erdman speaks about commissioning music from Cage for her dances, including her Ophelia (1946); she speaks about introducing David Tudor to Cage; the jazz based inspiration for her Portrait of a lady (1952) and Cage's creation of an eight-track electronic piece using her jazz records, Imaginary landscape [no. 5] (1952); she tells an anecdote about a performance of Portrait of a lady at Hunter College; briefly, a current reconstruction of Portrait of a lady; Erdman speaks about working with Cage to create prepared piano music for her Daughters of a lonesome isle (1945), and the chant and percussion music for her Forever and sunsmell (1943); they speak about the score for Cunningham's Seasons (1947); ends abruptly.
Type of Resource
Sound recording
RLIN/OCLC: 913959541
NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b20732861
Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): 6887b530-b8f7-0133-8f36-60f81dd2b63c
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

  • 1983: Created
  • 2019: Found by you!
  • 2020

MLA Format

Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound, The New York Public Library. "Interview with Jean Erdman, 1983-06-08" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1983.

Chicago/Turabian Format

Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound, The New York Public Library. "Interview with Jean Erdman, 1983-06-08" New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed October 15, 2019.

APA Format

Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound, The New York Public Library. (1983). Interview with Jean Erdman, 1983-06-08 Retrieved from

Wikipedia Citation

<ref name=NYPL>{{cite web | url= | title= (sound recording) Interview with Jean Erdman, 1983-06-08, (1983) }} |author=Digital Collections, The New York Public Library |accessdate=October 15, 2019 |publisher=The New York Public Library, Astor, Lennox, and Tilden Foundation}}</ref>

Interview with Jean Erdman, 1983-06-08