"Avant-Garde Dancing Feet, Tickling Composers' Minds"
The New York Times, March 18, 2011
An article about the making of Music for Merce, a newish 10-CD box set issued by the invaluable New World record label. The box is devoted to a well-chosen cross-section of the myriad musical scores that came into being through the auspices of choreographer Merce Cunningham and the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, which is currently bidding farewell with its Legacy Tour.
Speaking with Christian Wolff and John King about their memories of working with Merce, and about the process by which they selected the contents of the box with David Behrman and Takehisa Kosugi, was a genuine treat. I'm only sorry that further hoped-for conversations with Alvin Curran and David Behrman didn't take place.
I also regret that I was unable to write this blog post until now. It's Sunday night, and as I type these words, Behrman, King and Kosugi have just started to perform Annea Lockwood's Jitterbug live at Roulette in SoHo, during the second of two concerts celebrating the release of Music for Merce. I know this because I'm listening to the concert live on my sofa in Queens, via Ustream. King is playing an electronically treated violin; Behrman is drawing a bow and tapping a dangled weight on what might be a tabletop guitar; Kosugi is making a racket with all manner of little noisemakers. It's a stately bit of jitter and rumble, lovely in both its calm volition and its unpredictability.
But there's one more scheduled event that warrants advance mention: The Merce Cunningham Dance Company starts a six-day, seven-performance run at the Joyce Theater in Chelsea on Tuesday. The program includes three dances: CRWDSPCR, scored by King; Quartet, to music by David Tudor; and Antic Meet, a collaboration between Cunningham and Robert Rauschenberg (using John Cage's Concert for Piano and Orchestra) that prior to this tour has not been staged since 1969. I can't speak for all of the pieces, but King confirmed he'll be playing live during CRWDSPCR.
Alistair Macaulay, chief dance critic of The New York Times, reviewed Antic Meet during its initial revival in Berkeley a few weeks ago. I confess that I have not read so very much dance criticism, and I was surprised at first by how little mention of the music figures into Macaulay's piece; Brian Eno, who created the music for Pond Way (also performed in Berkeley), is not mentioned at all. But perhaps this is beside the point in evaluating dance performances, and likely even more so when evaluating Cunningham, where a coexistence without co-dependency between music and dance was precisely the point.
I understand that tickets are already scarce for the Joyce performances. New Yorkers who miss it will have three more opportunities to see the company: Merce Fair, a 12-hour multimedia presentation at the Frederick P. Rose Hall on July 16 during the Lincoln Center Festival; a Brooklyn Academy of Music run December 7-10; and something enticingly billed as "Park Avenue Event" at the Park Avenue Armory December 29-31 -- the last night being the company's final bow.