Interview with Merce Cunningham, 1978-06-06/09
NamesMerce Cunningham Dance Company (Associated name)Cunningham, Merce (Interviewee)Vaughan, David, 1924- (Interviewer)
Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation Collection. Audio materials
Dates / OriginDate Created: 1978-06-06Date Created: 1978-06-09
Library locationsRodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded SoundShelf locator: *LTC-A 1446
TopicsBarrett, MaudeBarrett, MarjorieBird, BonnieCunningham, MerceCage, JohnCage, John -- Credo in usCornish, Nellie Centennial, 1876-1956Erdman, JeanGraham, MarthaWeidman, CharlesWeston, Dorothy HerrmannBennington CollegeBennington School of the DanceCornish College of the Arts (Seattle, Wash.)Martha Graham Dance CompanySchool of American BalletAppalachian spring (Choreographic work : Graham)Credo in us (Choreographic work : Cunningham and Erdman)Deaths and entrances (Choreographic work : Graham)Letter to the world (Choreographic work : Graham)Root of an unfocus (Choreographic work : Cunningham)Totem ancestor (Choreographic work : Cunningham)ChoreographyDance -- Study and teaching
NotesContent: David Vaughan interviews Merce Cunningham, probably in New York, New York, on June 6 and 9, 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, 6 June 1978 ; 2. Continued ; 9 June 1978".Venue: Recorded in, [New York, New York], 1978 June 6 and 9.Acquisition: Gift; Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation, 2011-2012.Citation/reference: Forms part of the Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation Collection.
Physical DescriptionAudiocassetteExtent: 1 audiocassette (92 minutes) : analogSound quality is mostly good; at times the interviewee is muffled or speaks away from the recording microphone but is mostly audible.
DescriptionStreaming file 1, Jun. 6, 1978: Begins abruptly, Merce Cunningham speaks with David Vaughan about dancing the Sailor's Hornpipe at the age of 10; he speaks about early influences in cinema, local performances, and studying tap dancing with his first dance teacher Mrs. [Maude] Barrett in Centralia, Washington where he grew up; performing with Marjorie Barrett (Maude's daughter) as a teenager at local Grange Halls and schools; he describes some of their acts that included soft shoe, exhibition ballroom, and his specialty solo; he speaks more about Marjorie; his attending Cornish College of the Arts as a theater major and taking dance classes there; reasons that he chose Cornish for college, including his family connection with Mrs. [Nellie] Cornish; his father's support of his attending Cornish to study theater and dance; briefly, his teacher at Cornish, Bonnie Bird; Vaughan shows Cunningham a program from a performance at Cornish; Cunningham speaks about the daily classes he took while at Cornish; briefly, on his theater teacher, [Alexander] Koriansky; briefly, the Graham technique and composition classes he took with Bird; meeting John Cage during his second year and the way Cage taught composition classes; Vaughan lists the works that Cunningham choreographed and co-choreographed while at Cornish: Unbalanced march, Jazz epigram, and Skinny structures; Cunningham speaks about his co-dancer while at Cornish, Dorothy Herrmann [Weston]; he speaks about another friend while at Cornish, Joyce Wike, including an anecdote about Wike's audition for a Cornish scholarship; he speaks briefly about meeting Morris Graves through Wike; more about Bird's composition classes and how the students worked with music; he speaks briefly about Bird's students touring to perform at other colleges in the Pacific northwest; they speak about Bird's Marriage at the Eiffel Tower (1939?); Cunningham speaks about his participation as a percussionist in Cage's percussion concert series, including some of the composers and instruments they played; [brief interruption]; Cunningham speaks about some of the theater productions he performed in while at Cornish; he speaks briefly about dancing in a piece by Lester Horton during his first summer at Mills College for the Bennington School of the Dance summer sessions; briefly, on returning for his second summer at Mills for the Bennington School and dancing in a piece by Charles Weidman; an anecdote on rehearsals with Weidman; while at the summer session, being invited to attend Bennington College as well as to dance with Martha Graham [in her Martha Graham Dance Company]; he tells an anecdote about telling his parents that he was leaving for New York to dance with Graham; his clarity about wanting to leave Cornish for New York; ways that his Cornish tuition was payed; ends abruptly.
Streaming file 2, Jun. 9, 1978: Merce Cunningham speaks with David Vaughan about moving to New York in the fall of 1939 at the invitation of Martha Graham; taking dance classes with Graham teaching and Ethel Butler demonstrating; performing with the [Martha Graham Dance Company] in December, 1939; his income from teaching at a boy's school until going on tour with the Graham Company; the modern dance performance venues in New York at that time; the Graham Company's sharing a week of performances with the Ballet Caravan; some of the other performances and choreographers he saw at that time, including works by [Antony] Tudor; the payment he recieved from Graham while on tour, impressions of Graham, and his first year in New York; being in residence with the Graham Company at Bennington College in Vermont the following summer; more on dancing with Graham, including brief anecdotes on Graham's works that he performed in: Penitente (1940), Letter to the world (1940), and Punch and the Judy (1941); briefly, taking classes at School of American Ballet and meeting Lincoln Kirstein; an anecdote on being a super[lative] performer in a Ballet Russe production of Petruchka while in Seattle; an anecdote on seeing a Ballet Caravan performance in Seattle; he speaks about ballet teacher Mary Ann Wells and having not studied with her; more on the dance classes, teachers and guest artists at Cornish; more about his taking class at School of American Ballet and his first year with the Graham Company; they speak briefly about his role in Graham's Land be bright (1942) and also in American document (1938); teachers at the School of American Ballet and an anecdote on Joseph Cornell watching ballet classes there; briefly, on the one class he took from George Balanchine; he speaks about becoming dissatisfied with working under Graham while working on her Letter to the world; Cunningham's discontent about the roles that Graham cast Cunningham and Erik Hawkins in for her Deaths and entrances (1943); his solo in Graham's Appalachian spring (1944); his enjoyment of dancing with her despite his disagreement on her artistic vision; briefly, on performing in Boston performances of One touch of [Venus] with choreography by Agnes de Mille; briefly, spaces where he rehearsed his own work in the early years, including at his 17th street loft in New York; he speaks about his correspondence with Cage to compose the music [Credo in us] for his shared concert with Jean Erdman at Bennington College; they speak more about the Bennington concert which included Credo in us (1942); Cunningham speaks about the zarzuela he was the dance director for, The Wind Remains, with music and adaptation by Paul Bowles, at the Museum of Modern Art in 1943; they speak about the 1944 joint concert with Cage of music and dances that consisted of his solos: Totem ancestor, Root of an unfocus, Triple-paced, Tossed as it is untroubled, Unavailable memory of, and, Spontaneous earth; his investigation of a variety of movement in these early dances; ends abruptly.
Type of ResourceSound recording
IdentifiersRLIN/OCLC: 913959924NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b20732884Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): 77122e70-b8f8-0133-90af-60f81dd2b63c
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