“Every something is an echo of nothing.” —JOHN CAGECage is perhaps best known for his 1952 composition 4′33″, which is performed in the absence of deliberate sound; musicians who present the work do nothing aside from being present for the duration specified by the title. The content of the composition is not "four minutes and 33 seconds of silence," as is sometimes assumed, but rather the sounds of the environment heard by the audience during performance. The work's challenge to assumed definitions about musicianship and musical experience made it a popular and controversial topic both in musicology and the broader aesthetics of art and performance. Cage was also a pioneer of the prepared piano (a piano with its sound altered by objects placed between or on its strings or hammers), for which he wrote numerous dance-related works and a few concert pieces. The best known of these is Sonatas and Interludes (1946–48).
His teachers included Henry Cowell (1933) and Arnold Schoenberg (1933–35), both known for their radical innovations in music, but Cage's major influences lay in various East and South Asian cultures. Through his studies of Indian philosophy and Zen Buddhism in the late 1940s, Cage came to the idea of aleatoric or chance-controlled music, which he started composing in 1951. The I Ching, an ancient Chinese classic text on changing events, became Cage's standard composition tool for the rest of his life. In a 1957 lecture, Experimental Music, he described music as "a purposeless play" which is "an affirmation of life – not an attempt to bring order out of chaos nor to suggest improvements in creation, but simply a way of waking up to the very life we're living".
John Cage (1912 – 1992) was an American composer, music theorist, writer, and artist. He was also instrumental in the development of modern dance, mostly through his association with choreographer Merce Cunningham (1919 – 2009), who was also Cage's romantic partner for most of their lives. On August 11, 1992, while preparing evening tea for himself and Cunningham, Cage suffered a stroke. He died the day after. Merce Cunningham lived another 17 years, dying of natural causes in July 2009.
In 1938, with help from a fellow Cowell student Lou Harrison, Cage became a faculty member at Mills College, teaching the same program as at UCLA, and collaborating with choreographer Marian van Tuyl. Several famous dance groups were present, and Cage's interest in modern dance grew further. After several months he left and moved to Seattle, Washington, where he found work as composer and accompanist for choreographer Bonnie Bird at the Cornish College of the Arts. The Cornish School years proved to be a particularly important period in Cage's life. Aside from teaching and working as accompanist, Cage organized a percussion ensemble that toured the West Coast and brought the composer his first fame. His reputation was enhanced further with the invention of the prepared piano—a piano which has had its sound altered by objects placed on, beneath or between the strings—in 1940. This concept was originally intended for a performance staged in a room too small to include a full percussion ensemble. It was also at the Cornish School that Cage met a number of people who became lifelong friends, such as painter Mark Tobey and dancer Merce Cunningham. The latter was to become Cage's lifelong partner and collaborator.
Cage left Seattle in the summer of 1941 after the painter László Moholy-Nagy invited him to teach at the Chicago School of Design. The composer accepted partly because he hoped to find opportunities in Chicago, that were not available in Seattle, to organize a center for experimental music. These opportunities did not materialize. Cage taught at the Chicago School of Design and worked as accompanist and composer at the University of Chicago. At one point, his reputation as percussion composer landed him a commission from the Columbia Broadcasting System to compose a soundtrack for a radio play by Kenneth Patchen. The result, The City Wears a Slouch Hat, was received well, and Cage deduced that more important commissions would follow. Hoping to find these, he left Chicago for New York City in the spring of 1942.
In New York, the Cages first stayed with painter Max Ernst and Peggy Guggenheim. Through them, Cage met numerous important artists such as Piet Mondrian, André Breton, Jackson Pollock, Marcel Duchamp, and many others. Guggenheim was very supportive: the Cages could stay with her and Ernst for any length of time, and she offered to organize a concert of Cage's music at the opening of her gallery, which included paying for transportation of Cage's percussion instruments from Chicago. After she learned that Cage secured another concert, at the Museum of Modern Art, Guggenheim withdrew all support, and, even after the ultimately successful MoMA concert, Cage was left homeless, unemployed and penniless. The commissions he hoped for did not happen. He and Xenia spent the summer of 1942 with dancer Jean Erdman and her husband. Without the percussion instruments, Cage again turned to prepared piano, producing a substantial body of works for performances by various choreographers, including Merce Cunningham, who moved to New York City several years earlier. Cage and Cunningham eventually became romantically involved, and Cage's marriage, already breaking up during the early 1940s, ended in divorce in 1945. Cunningham remained Cage's partner for the rest of his life. Cage also countered the lack of percussion instruments by writing, on one occasion, for voice and closed piano: the resulting piece, The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs (1942), quickly became popular and was performed by the celebrated duo of Cathy Berberian and Luciano Berio.
In 1987, Cage completed a piece called Two, for flute and piano, dedicated to performers Roberto Fabbriciani and Carlo Neri. The title referred to the number of performers needed; the music consisted of short notated fragments to be played at any tempo within the indicated time constraints. Cage went on to write some forty such pieces, one of the last being Eighty (1992, premiered in Munich on 28 October 2011), usually employing a variant of the same technique; together, these works are known as Number Pieces. The process of composition, in many of the later Number Pieces, was simple selection of pitch range and pitches from that range, using chance procedures; the music has been linked to Cage's anarchic leanings. One11 (i.e. the eleventh piece for a single performer), completed in early 1992, was Cage's first and only foray into film.
Another new direction, also taken in 1987, was opera: Cage produced five operas, all sharing the same title Europera, in 1987–91. Europeras I and II require greater forces than III, IV and V, which are on a chamber scale.
Already in the course of the eighties, Cage's health worsened progressively: he suffered not only from arthritis, but also from sciatica and arteriosclerosis. He suffered a stroke that left the movement of his left leg restricted, and, in 1985, broke an arm. During this time, Cage pursued a macrobiotic diet. Nevertheless, ever since arthritis started plaguing him, the composer was aware of his age, and, as biographer David Revill observed, "the fire which he began to incorporate in his visual work in 1985 is not only the fire he has set aside for so long—the fire of passion—but also fire as transitoriness and fragility." On August 11, 1992, while preparing evening tea for himself and Cunningham, Cage suffered another stroke. He was taken to the nearest hospital, where he died on the morning of August 12.
According to his wishes, Cage's body was cremated, and the ashes scattered in the Ramapo Mountains, near Stony Point, New York, the same place where Cage scattered the ashes of his parents, years before. The composer's death occurred only weeks before a celebration of his 80th birthday organized in Frankfurt by the composer Walter Zimmermann and the musicologist Stefan Schaedler was due to take place. The event went ahead as planned, including a performance of the Concert for Piano and Orchestra by David Tudor and Ensemble Modern. Merce Cunningham lived another 17 years, dying of natural causes in July 2009.
Mercier "Merce" Philip Cunningham (April 16, 1919 – July 26, 2009) was an American dancer and choreographer who was at the forefront of the American avant-garde for more than 50 years. Throughout much of his life, Cunningham was considered one of the greatest creative forces in American dance. He is also notable for his frequent collaborations with artists of other disciplines, including musicians John Cage and David Tudor, artists Robert Rauschenberg and Bruce Nauman, designer Romeo Gigli, and architect Benedetta Tagliabue. Works that he produced with these artists had a profound impact on avant-garde art beyond the world of dance.
As a choreographer, teacher and leader of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, Cunningham had a profound influence on modern dance. Many dancers who trained with Cunningham formed their own companies, and they include Paul Taylor, Remy Charlip, Viola Farber, Charles Moulton, Karole Armitage, Robert Kovich, Foofwa d’Imobilité, Kimberly Bartosik, Floanne Ankah and Jonah Bokaer.
In 2009, the Cunningham Dance Foundation announced the Legacy Plan, a precedent-setting plan for the continuation of Cunningham’s work and the celebration and preservation of his artistic legacy.
Cunningham earned some of the highest honors bestowed in the arts, including the National Medal of Arts and the MacArthur Fellowship. He also received Japan's Praemium Imperiale, a British Laurence Olivier Award, and was named Officier of the Légion d'honneur in France.
Cunningham’s life and artistic vision have been the subject of numerous books, films, and exhibitions, and his works have been presented by groups including the Paris Opéra Ballet, New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, White Oak Dance Project, and London's Rambert Dance Company.
Merce Cunningham was born in Centralia, Washington' in 1919, the second of three sons. Both his brothers followed their father into the legal profession. Cunningham initially received his first formal dance and theater training at the Cornish School (now Cornish College of the Arts) in Seattle, which he attended from 1937 to 1939 at age 20. During this time, Martha Graham saw Cunningham dance and invited him to join her company.
In the fall of 1939, Cunningham moved to New York and began a six-year stint as a soloist in the company of Martha Graham. He presented his first solo concert in New York in April 1944 with composer John Cage, who became his life partner and frequent collaborator until Cage's death in 1992.
In the summer of 1953, as a teacher in residence at Black Mountain College, Cunningham formed the Merce Cunningham Dance Company as a forum to explore his new ideas on dance and the performing arts.
Over the course of his career, Cunningham choreographed more than 200 dances and over 800 “Events,” which are site-specific choreographic works. In 1963 he joined with Cage to create the Walker Art Center's first performance, instigating what would be a 25-year collaborative relationship with the Walker. In his performances, he often used the I Ching in order to determine the sequence of his dances and, often, dancers were not told until the night of the performance. In addition to his role as choreographer, Cunningham performed as a dancer in his company into the early 1990s.
He continued to lead his dance company until his death, and presented a new work, Nearly Ninety, in April 2009, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York, to mark his 90th birthday.
Cunningham lived in New York City, and was Artistic Director of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. He died peacefully in his home.
Cunningham formed Merce Cunningham Dance Company (MCDC) at Black Mountain College in 1953. Guided by its leader's radical approach to space, time and technology, the Company has forged a distinctive style, reflecting Cunningham’s technique and illuminating the near limitless possibility for human movement.
The original Company included dancers Carolyn Brown, Viola Farber, Paul Taylor, and Remy Charlip, and musicians John Cage and David Tudor.
In its early years, MCDC toured in a Volkswagen bus driven by John Cage with just enough room for six dancers, the two musicians, and a stage manager, who was often Robert Rauschenberg. MCDC’s first international tour in 1964—which included performances in Western and Eastern Europe, India, Thailand, and Japan—solidified a constant stream of national and international bookings. In the years since, MCDC has continued to tour the world to critical and popular acclaim, serving as an ambassador for contemporary American culture.
Recent performances and projects include a two-year residency at Dia:Beacon, where MCDC performed Events, Cunningham’s site-specific choreographic collages, in the galleries of Richard Serra, Dan Flavin, and Sol LeWitt among others. In 2007, MCDC premiered XOVER, Cunningham’s final collaboration with Rauschenberg, at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. In 2009, MCDC premiered Cunningham’s newest work, Nearly Ninety, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The Company has presently concluded its farewell tour in 2011.
Since its founding, Merce Cunningham Dance Company has frequently collaborated with visual artists, architects, designers, and musicians.
From the company's beginnings, Cunningham collaborated with John Cage, its Musical Advisor and Cunningham's life partner from the 1940s until Cage’s death in 1992. Cage had the greatest influence on his practice. Together, Cunningham and Cage proposed a number of radical innovations. The most famous and controversial of these concerned the relationship between dance and music, which they concluded may occur in the same time and space, but should be created independently of one another. They also made extensive use of chance procedures, abandoning not only musical forms, but narrative and other conventional elements of dance composition—such as cause and effect, and climax and anticlimax. For Cunningham the subject of his dances was always dance itself.
After his death, John Cage was succeeded in the role of music director by David Tudor. Since 1995, MCDC has been under the music direction of Takehisa Kosugi. MCDC has commissioned more work from contemporary composers than any other dance company. Its repertory includes works by musicians ranging from John Cage and Gordon Mumma to Gavin Bryars and even contemporary bands like Radiohead, Sigur Rós and Sonic Youth.
The Company has also collaborated with an array of visual artists and designers. Robert Rauschenberg, whose famous “Combines” reflect the approach he used to create décor for a number of MCDC’s early works, served as the Company’s resident designer from 1954 through 1964. Jasper Johns followed as Artistic Advisor from 1967 until 1980, and Mark Lancaster from 1980 through 1984. The last Advisors to be appointed were William Anastasi and Dove Bradshaw in 1984. Other artists who have collaborated with MCDC include Daniel Arsham, Tacita Dean, Liz Phillips, Rei Kawakubo, Roy Lichtenstein, Bruce Nauman, Ernesto Neto, Frank Stella, Benedetta Tagliabue, and Andy Warhol.
John Cage and I became interested in the use of chance in the 50's. I think one of the very primary things that happened then was the publication of the "I Ching," the Chinese book of changes, from which you can cast your fortune: the hexagrams.Although the use of chance operations was considered an abrogation of artistic responsibility, Cunningham was thrilled by a process that arrives at works that could never have been created through traditional collaboration. This does not mean, however, that Cunningham holds every piece created in this fashion is a masterpiece. Those dances that do not "work" are quickly dropped from repertory, while those that do are celebrated as serendipitous discoveries.
Cage took it to work in his way of making compositions then; and he used the idea of 64—the number of the hexagrams —to say that you had 64, for example, sounds; then you could cast, by chance, to find which sound first appeared, cast again, to say which sound came second, cast again, so that it's done by, in that sense, chance operations. Instead of finding out what you think should follow—say a particular sound—what did the I Ching suggest? Well, I took this also for dance.
I was working on a title called, “Untitled Solo,” and I had made—using the chance operations—a series of movements written on scraps of paper for the legs and the arms, the head, all different. And it was done not to the music but with the music of Christian Wolff. —Merce Cunningham, Merce Cunningham: A Lifetime of Dance, 2000
Another of Cunningham's innovations was the development of what might be called "non-representative" dance which simply emphasizes movement: in Cunningham's choreography, dancers do not necessarily represent any historical figure, emotional situation, or idea.
Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
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Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher
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