Interview with Merce Cunningham, 1978-12-28/1979-03-16

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Interview with Merce Cunningham, 1978-12-28/1979-03-16
Merce Cunningham Dance Company (Associated name)
Cunningham, Merce (Interviewee)
Vaughan, David, 1924- (Interviewer)

Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation Collection. Audio materials

Dates / Origin
Date Created: 1978-12-28
Date Created: 1979-01-12
Date Created: 1979-03-16
Library locations
Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound
Shelf locator: *LTC-A 1446
Behrman, David -- For nearly an hour
Brown, Carolyn, 1927-
Cage, John
Cage, John -- Cheap imitation
Cage, John -- Credo in us
Cunningham, Merce
Dilley, Barbara
Duchamp, Marcel, 1887-1968
Erdman, Jean
Johns, Jasper, 1930-
Mehl, Brynar
Neels, Sandra
Reid, Albert
Satie, Erik, 1866-1925 -- Socrate
Slayton, Jeff
jr, Solomons, Gus, 1940-
Swinston, Robert
Tudor, David, 1926-1996 -- Rainforestno. 1no. 1 no. 1
Merce Cunningham Dance Company
Assemblage (Motion picture)
Canfield (Choreographic work : Cunningham)
Dromenon (Choreographic work : Cunningham)
Event (Choreographic work : Cunningham)
Objects (Choreographic work : Cunningham)
RainForest (Choreographic work : Cunningham)
Scramble (Choreographic work : Cunningham)
Second hand (Choreographic work : Cunningham)
Signals (Choreographic work : Cunningham)
Tread (Choreographic work : Cunningham)
Walkaround time (Choreographic work : Cunningham)
Content: David Vaughan interviews Merce Cunningham, probably in [New York, New York], on December 28, 1978, January 12, and March 16, 1979. 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 notes on original container.
Content: Handwritten notes on original original container: "David Vaughan: Interview with Merce Cunningham ; 28 Dec. 1978, cont'd 12 Jan. 1979; A. 28 December 1978 ; continued 12 January 1979 ; WAT [Walkaround time] B. Resumed 16 March 1979".
Venue: Originally recorded in, [New York, New York], 1978 December 28, 1979 January 12, 1979 March 16.
Acquisition: Gift; Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation, 2011-2012.
Citation/reference: Forms part of the Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation Collection.
Physical Description
Extent: 1 audiocassette (94 minutes) : analog
Sound quality is mostly good; at times the interviewee is muffled or speaks away from the recording microphone and there are background noises.
Streaming file 1, Dec. 28, 1978, and Jan. 12, 1979: Begins abruptly; Merce Cunningham speaks with David Vaughan on Dec. 28, 1978 about a choreographic note for RainForest (1968) in his book Changes: notes on choreography (New York, Something Else Press); he speaks about the entrances and sections for his original cast of [Merce Cunningham Dance Company] dancers in RainForest: Carolyn Brown, Barbara Lloyd [Dilley], Sandra Neels, Albert Reid, Gus Solomons jr; edits he made to RainForest for filming the Dance in America program; inspirations for RainForest; speaking with Jasper Johns about using Andy Warhol's pillows in RainForest; an anecdote on speaking with David Tudor about the music for RainForest; the costumes for RainForest including an anecdote about Carolyn Brown's costume; choreographing and rehearsing RainForest and Walkaround time (1968) during a residency in Buffalo, New York; Cunningham tells an anecdote about the Frank Stella set for Scramble (1967) during the performances at Buffalo; he tells an anecdote about the dinner party when Johns asked Marcel Duchamp to collaborate on a work with Cunningham, Walkaround time (1968); he speaks about the set design for Walkaround time by Duchamp and its construction by Johns; Cunningham speaks about some of his references to Duchamp within Walkaround time, including the entr'acte; more on the choreography for Walkaround time; the music for Walkaround time, David Berhman's For nearly an hour (1968); he speaks briefly about dancer Jeff Slayton; Cunningham speaks about the filming of Assemblage (1968) in Ghirardelli Square, San Francisco; the choreographic ordering system, utilizing playing cards, for his Canfield (1969); some of the movement from Assemblage that he re-used in Canfield, including an anecdote on Robert Swinston and Brynar Mehl; more on how he determined the order, by chance, for each performance of Canfield; Neels' notes on Canfield as well as the lack of filmed documentation of it; his interest in using sections from Canfield for his Events; [brief break]; begins abruptly, Cunningham tells an anecdote about his inspiration for Canfield while visiting Marcel and "Teeny" [Alexina] Duchamp on a tour; [ca. 34:40, end of Dec. 28, 1978 interview]; [Jan. 12, 1979: Begins abruptly]; Cunningham speaks about Bruce Nauman's set for Tread (1970), consisting of industrial fans; he speaks about how Second hand (1970) is an expansion of his solo Idyllic song (1944); he speaks about using John Cage's Cheap imitation (1969), an arrangement of Erik Satie's Socrate (1917-1918), for Second hand; more on the choreography for Second hand; ends abruptly. Streaming file 2, Jan. 12, and Mar. 16, 1979: Begins abruptly; Merce Cunningham continues to speak with David Vaughan on Jan. 12, 1979 about the choreography for his Second hand (1970); he tells a brief anecdote about taking M.C. Richards to a Town Hall performance of Socrate; they speak about the color spectrum of Jasper Johns' costumes for Second hand; Cunningham describes some of the cameras used for filming with Charles Atlas, as well as some of the challenges they face while filming dance; Cunningham speaks about his Signals (1970), including its sections, original cast, and the chance methods used to order the choreography; more on the costumes and chairs in the set design; some of the signals given by the dancers as cues during performances of Signals; Cunningham speaks about his Objects (1970) and the set design by Neil Jenny that consists of the objects referenced by the title; briefly, his re-use of a section from Septet (1953) in Objects; he lists works that he'd like to reconstruct; [ca. 22:37, end of Jan. 12 interview]; [ca. 24:12, Mar. 16, 1979, begins abruptly]; Cunningham speaks about taking tap dance classes during his brief stint at George Washington University following his high school graduation; staying with his brother while at George Washington University, seeing Vaudeville and exhibition ballroom performances while there, and returning to Centralia, [Washington], the following year; they speak briefly about the duet with Dorothy Herrmann that was choreographed by Bonnie Bird and performed at Mills College; they speak about the 1939 article by John Cage, "Goal: New music, new dance"; Cunningham speaks about writing to Cage to ask him to compose the music for Credo in us (1942) and Jean Erdman's nerves about Cage's delayed response; Cunningham speaks about how his choreographic explorations paralleled those of Cage's artistic ideas; they speak about Nancy Wilson Ross's lecture on Dadaism and Zen [Buddhism] at Cornish College of the Arts that impacted Cage; Cunningham speaks briefly about the inspiration and the movement qualities in his Open road (1947); Vaughan quotes a review of Cunningham's Sixteen dances for soloist and company of three (1951); Cunningham speaks about his Dromenon (1947), including its complexity and similarities to Second hand (1970); they list the original cast of women in Dromenon, including the ways their dance training with Martha Graham flavored the movement; they speak briefly about Cunningham performing with Donald McKayle in Jean Erdman's Solstice (1950); ends abruptly.
Type of Resource
Sound recording
RLIN/OCLC: 913963508
NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b20732909
Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): 4f49a680-b8fa-0133-43ec-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
  • 2023: Found by you!
  • 2024

MLA Format

Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound, The New York Public Library. "Interview with Merce Cunningham, 1978-12-28/1979-03-16" 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, 1978-12-28/1979-03-16" New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed November 28, 2023.

APA Format

Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound, The New York Public Library. (1978). Interview with Merce Cunningham, 1978-12-28/1979-03-16 Retrieved from

Wikipedia Citation

<ref name=NYPL>{{cite web | url= | title= (sound recording) Interview with Merce Cunningham, 1978-12-28/1979-03-16, (1978)|author=Digital Collections, The New York Public Library |accessdate=November 28, 2023 |publisher=The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations}}</ref>

Interview with Merce Cunningham, 1978-12-28/1979-03-16