review of Carolyn Brown's "Chance and Circumstance"


2132. "review of Carolyn Brown's "Chance and Circumstance""

- the complete version of my review

- credited to: tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE

- publihsed on my "Critic" website December 30, 2022


review of

Carolyn Brown's "Chance and Circumstance"

by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 8-29, 2022


Strange as this admission may seem, I don't think any other bk has moved me to tears as often as this one did. I'm not sure I even know another person who'd be moved to tears by it at all - after all, it doesn't have the young pretty protagonist die of cancer leaving her loved ones devastated, it doesn't have the banker successfully make off w/ the life savings of the sad old man who'd worked his entire life to be able to leave a legacy for those he cared about, it doesn't have the social outcast sentenced to life in prison for a crime he didn't commit. You get the idea. Instead, it tells about the struggles & triumphs of people whose work I've followed & respected for many decades, mostly people whose personal lives I knew very little about. Even more strangely, perhaps, is that I don't particularly resent the relative priviledge & good favor these people benefited from b/c I recognize the passion & inspiration that drove them so whole-heartedly. Very few people are as passionate & dedicated as the main characters of this bk. Nonetheless, the very 1st reviewer note-to-self I wrote was "spoiled" in reponse to this 1st paragraph of the "PREFACE":

"One day, a year or two after I'd stopped performing with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, I received a phone call from Maxine Groffsky, who had left her position as the Paris editor of the Paris Review and had returned to New York. "I want to be your agent?" she said. Astonished, I asked, "For what?" "Your book." "What book" "The one John Cage says you're going to write." "Well, maybe, someday." "No, now." I resisted, she persisted. So I wrote a sample chapter and Maxine presented it to Bob Gottlieb, then editor in chief at Knopf, and suddenly I found myself committed to the daunting project of writing a book. That was over thirty years ago. The writing and the not writing took that long." - p -ii

Spoiled?! Yes, spoiled: a friend of hers promotes her writing a bk about his boyfriend to a prominent publishing person, sd person approaches her & makes her a good enuf offer to get the project rolling. She was still somewhat young, roughly aged 46. There's no talk of putting her in prison or rendering her homeless for daring to exist, she's treated w/ respect.

As of the writing of this review, I've written & had published or published myself 16 bks. Many of them refer to real-life people but only rarely do I refer to those people by their given names. Sometimes it's to avoid displeasure or repercussions on their part, other times it's to protect them from being fired from their jobs or otherwise persecuted.. - but, OH, how I'd like to just refer to everyone I've known & written about by their given names - whether it's for praise or criticism - & that's what Brown does here. She can probably get away w/ it b/c most of these people are famous, most of them are dead, most of them were friends of hers - &, I think, at least, she's very even-handed about it - she praises John Cage & Merce Cunningham, e.g., & criticizes them - I never got the impression that she was being vindictive or unfair (although her depiction of Yoko Ono struck me as a bit harsh) - in fact, one cd hardly hope for a more honest memoir.

"For the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, this day, with a matinee performance, was the end of the Paris season and the end of the 1972 tour begun in Iran in early September. For me, it was the end of a twenty-year way of life.

"I had deliberately chosen to end that life abruptly, telling no one but those most intimately concerned, and to end it where I loved performing most-in Europe. A romantic gesture, certainly, but one that insured a happy ending to a life I cherished and had been nourished by." - p 3

"It was shortly after graduating from Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, marrying Earle Brown, my childhood sweetheart, and moving to Denver, Colorado, that I first saw Merce Cunningham dance-not perform, I hasten to add, but dance, in a master class that he taught and that I took in April 1951." - pp 3-4

"At each of two parties given for Cage and Cunningham that weekend, Earle and I "rather cornered John" (as I wrote home) "and talked the evening away." The first real question Earle asked him was "Do you feel there is an affinity between your music and the music of Anton Webern?" It was still rare in the United States in 1951 for anyone to know Webern's work. Cage looked quickly roward Earle and replied, "What do you know about Webern?" The conversation took off from there. We heard for the first time the names Pierre Boulez, a young French composer whom Cage had met two years earlier in Paris; David Tudor, an extraordinary young pianist; Morton Feldman, a young New York composer writing graph music. All these young men, more than a decade younger than Cage, were born within a year or two of each other and were Earle's immediate contemporaries." - p 5

For someone like myself, the excitement of such a time is probably hard for anyone not obsessed w/ avant-garde music to understand. All of the above composers, except for Webern (I prefer the music of his teacher, Arnold Schönberg), are on my "Top 100 Composers" webpage: . I have the highest admiration for Tudor, but he wasn't a composer yet & while I like his electronic pieces very much he hasn't quite made it to my Top 100 list either - both Webern & Tudor are potential candidates nonetheless. Even reading about such a conversation 2nd-hand is fascinating for me.

"In April 1951, Earle was already working at three jobs daily. From nine to five he worked at Cabaniss, a contemporary furniture store and interior design shop that sold Eames, Saarinen, Mies van der Rohe, Herman Miller, the Knoll line, and Schiffer prints. Earle got the job when we were down to our last dollar-a silver keepsake. He used the dollar for a haircut and got the job the same afternoon. From that job, he went to his own studio in a midtown professional building where he gave private lessons to four young jazz musicians and also taught a class with five students. After that he came home to compose. In the early hours of the morning he wrote a string quartet, a passacaglia (for Jane McLean and me to dance to), and a trio. When he finally did go to bed he had trouble sleeping, music still on his mind." - p 6

I can relate - in fact, this is one of many things that makes the story of this bk something I can relate to deeply. Earle & Carolyn were young, in their early 20s, they weren't being taken care of, they had to work - at the same time they were trying to pursue their passions, to pursue the interests that were at the center of their life. This situation didn't last forever, they were treated better & better. For me, being treated better & better wasn't very likely, I wdn't've been hired at the furniture store in the 1st place, I wd've been too much of a weirdo. The work I created was far more controversial & daring than anything Brown or Cunningham ever did. I didn't want it to be absorbed, I wasn't jockeying for respect, I was assaulting the culture.

SO, to contrast: In early 1985 my apartment was set fire to, I think by an arsonist hired by the assistant to my landlord to get me out of the neighborhood b/c I was helping the local (& very numerous) street drunks &, thusly, endangering the gentrification of the area. My girlfriend of the time took me in for the next 6 mnths until I found a new place to rent. I usually had 2 jobs, but in July & August, for 6 wks, things took an interesting development, I started working 84 hrs a wk, 7 days a wk. I'd get up around 7AM, leave to catch the bus to work around 7:15AM so that I cd get to my 1st job of the day: working in BalTimOre's porn district editing peep shows. It was the 1st (& one of the ONLY) jobs where I had to punch a time clock. If it wasn't punched by 8AM, I'd be docked an hr's pay. Curiously, I don't remember getting an extra hr's pay if I was there early. Funny how that works.

My coworker (& collaborator) & I were responsible for making something like 32 new small gauge (8mm & super-8mm) porns a wk out of available footage organized into themed cubby-holes in the dungeon-like basement where we worked. My coworker, Dick Hertz, & I decided to make a fake porn to sneak into a peep show. I worked 6 days a wk, 8 hrs a day there. This was the Jewish Mafia so it was run somewhat like a sweat shop.

After work, I'd catch a bus to my 2nd job, a used bkstore, where I'd work from 5:30 to 10:30PM (or some such). That was 5 days a wk & then on a 6th I'd work a 6 hr day - making a total of 36 hrs at the bkstore. SO, there were 2 days a wk when I only worked one or the other of the 2 jobs. Wages at both places of employment were close to minimum wage but b/c I was working so many hrs I was treated by the IRS as someone making twice what I was making hrly & I was put in a higher tax bracket & expected to pay even more taxes at the end of the yr than what had already been taken out.

After I got off work around 10:30PM I'd go back to my girlfriend's & start drinking hard liquor & working on the fake peep show movie, wch was called "Balling Tim Ore is Best". I'd get to sleep around 2 or 3AM & get up for work around 7AM & do it all over again. After 6 wks Dick snuck the film into a peep show & I quit that job. Dick got the film back after 2 wks of escaping detection & gave it to me. It's since been screened many places, including at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan, NYC - so, in a sense, I got some respect from the wider cultural world, as did Carolyn & Earle - but I think you can understand just how different our paths were in many ways.

"I was very impressed: "David has been so very generous and helpful-he's gone out of his way to be nice to us. He is such an interesting person-really a genius, I guess. He is the only pianist who can play contemporary music (which is unbelievably difficult), and not only plays this music, but studies the aesthetics of the composers, and their philosophies of life as well, in order to do true justice to what they express in the music. An amazing person. And probably not over twenty-five years old."" - p 8

& if I were to pick one pianist over all it wd be David Tudor. I have a "Top 100 Pianists" webpage too: . There're only 28 pianist listed on it as of this writing. Tudor wd've been the very 1st I thought of. There're probably more pianists now who can play the extremely difficult work that Tudor pioneered in the 1950s & '60s but he was certainly at the forefront for as long as he was active as a pianist.

"After a quick visit with both our families in Massachusetts, we headed directly to 326 Monroe Street, a tenement building on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the shadow of the Williamsburg Bridge, where John Cage lived on the top floor in two small apartments he'd made into one. The shabby building, almost on the East River, also housed Morton Feldman and the painter-collagist Ray Johnson, who shared his tiny work space with the sculptor Richard Lippold. They called the place "Bozza Mansion," Bozza being their landlord's name." - p 10

Again, I find this exciting. I love Cage's music, I love Feldman's music. I had a brief correspondence w/ Johnson before he committed suicide (it might've been more interesting if it happened after) & he's a major figure in Mail Art history, I don't know Lippold's work much but I remember liking it. The stimulating atmosphere that wd've existed w/ all 4 of these people living in the same bldg must've been phenomenal.

"In March I'd received a phone call from Ray Johnson-the enigmatic, eccentric, lovable Ray Johnson-who wondered if I still had a tiny piece of the very large geometric oil painting he had been working on when first we met him in 1951, which he had subsequently cut into bits and mailed out to his "New York Correspondence School" friends." - p 456

"Our decision meant I must get a job, and at the last minute I did, at the Kent School for Girls, where they indentured me: I was to teach dance to the entire school, first grade through high school; to teach drama; the eighth-grade speech classes; an elective appreciation course in dance and drama to juniors and seniors; to serve as substitute teacher for eighth-grade history (a disaster!); to be bus proctor, study-hall proctor, librarian, and drama coach-all for two thousand dollars a year! Each school day began and ended with me proctoring a busload of giggling girls to and from school; when the school day was over, I was completely wiped out and still had more homework to do than the kids." - p 12

WHEW! That is an insanely heavy workload. I'd imagine that the best way for a teacher to get thru it was to not take what was being taught seriously in the least - something I'm sure Brown wdn't've done. $2,000 in 1952 is equivalent in purchasing power to about $22,491.47 seventy yrs later & that's about what I made in a good yr before I retired (working considerably fewer hrs w/ considerably less responsibility) so, yes, that was pathetic pay. Still, being the proctologist for all those kids was the icing on the butt-cake. I mean, really.

"Less than two months passed; in the mail came a flyer addressed to us in John's own beautiful hand. Inside, elegantly spaced and lettered, was the announcement that the Living Theatre, Inc., would present two recitals by David Tudor at the Cherry Lane Theatre, 38 Commerce Street, in New York. At the first, Tudor would play Boulez's 2ème Sonate and for the first time anywhere the complete <Music of Changes> by Cage, as well as a work by Christian Wolff and one by Morton Feldman. The next month, Tudor would play music by Webern, Cage, Wladimir Woronoff, Henry Cowell, Stefan Wolpe, Josef M. Hauer, Low Harrison, Wolff, Feldman, and Earle Brown! The flyer was designed by Cage. In the forties and much of the fifties, Cage and Cunningham (and often Tudor) concerts were usually graced with simple, elegant, handsome flyers, posters, programs, and sometimes tickets that Cage himself designed; when possible he chose the paper as well as the type, layout, colors, etc." - p 13

To say that the above is thrilling to me is an understatement. As an appreciator of imaginative & meticulous design I'm sure that Cage's announcement must've been very special. Just receiving it in the mail wd've been fantastic. Attending the concerts wd've been beyond fantastic. How many opportunities do we have in life for such profound experiences?!

Another composer/performer/writer/designer whose production imagination covered all aspects of presentation was the inimitable Franz Kamin (see my documentary about him entitled "DEPOT: Wherein Resides the UNDEAD of Franz Kamin": on YouTube here: , on the Internet Archive here: ; see my underdeveloped Franz Kamin website here: ). Franz's designs may've even been more fabulous than Cage's.

I like to think that my own designs are equally fabulous. I also think that the joys to be found in appreciation of such designs are almost to be taken for granted - &, yet, I think about a pyramid (actually folded & taped into a pyramid) I made to advertise a screening of "DEPOT" at Anthology in NYC. The day before the screening I went to a reading by Steve McCaffery, a writer/performer whose work I consider to be of the highest caliber, genius. I gave McCaffery a pyramid ad. He sd he was flying back to Toronto & wdn't be attending my screening. THEN he sd something like: "How am I supposed to carry this on the plane?!" as if the small pyramidal shape was just a nuisance that interfered w/ his practical life. I explained how he cd untape it & flatten it for putting easily into his pocket - but, truthfully, I was flabbergasted: how cd someone as intelligent & talented as McCaffery be so banal?!

"A letter to my parents mentioned the Brandeis Creative Arts Festival, which had commissioned Merce Cunningham to choreograph Stravinsky's Les Noces and Symphonie pour un homme seul, musique concrete composed by Pierre Schaeffer with the collaboration of Pierre Henry." - p 14

Another amazing event I wd've loved to've witnessed. & yet.. John Cage commented:

"The Brandeis business is unfortunately not Boulez but a lousy piece by Schaeffer and Henry." - p 15

A "lousy piece"?! Sometimes, IMO, Cage cd be a bit too myopically restricted by his own philosophical obsessions.

I keep saying how much I wd've liked to've been at these key cultural moments. Imagine Black Mountain College:

"Josef Albers and Charles Olson are probably the two most important to Black Mountain's history, but the list includs Ernst Krenek, Edward Steuerman, Walter Gropius, Lionel Feininger, Ossip Zadkine, Robert Motherwell, Willem de Kooning, Elaine de Kooning, Richard Lippold, Buckminster Fuller, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Paul Goodman, Katherine Litz, Bernard Leach, Karen Karnes, David Weinrib, Peter Voulkos, John Chamberlain, David Tudor, Lou Harrison, Ben Shawn, Franz Kline, Jack Tworkov, Stefan Wolpe" - p 17

AMAZING, yes. Definitely. &, yet. despite what I've already written, despite my intense admiration for many of these people's creativity.. I'm actually happy to've led the life I've led, the life that wasn't at Black Mountain College, the life that started in 1953, that represents a very different trajectory - but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate this history. I do appreciate it. Very much.

"In one of his lectures, ostensibly on Satie, Cage said:

"With Beethoven the parts of the composition were defined by means of harmony. With Satie and Webern they are defined by means of time lengths. The question of structure is so basic, and it is so important to be in agreement about it, that one must now ask: Was Beethoven right or are Webern and Satie right? I answer immediately and unequivocally, Beethoven was in error, and his influence, which has been as extensive as it is lamentable, has been deadening to the art of music." - p 18

&, no, I don't embrace that as dogma. I can appreciate the value of Cage's shocking anti-Beethoven proclamation, after all, Beethoven was essentially the-composer-who-could-do-no-wrong to many composers & musicians & still has a remarkable amt of post-mortem clout to this day. Nonetheless, organization by harmony is fine, organization by time lengths is fine, organization by neither is fine. Whatever. I'm mainly interested in what sounds freshest to me, what seems the most imaginative. I've listened to, & appreciated, Cage's music much more than Beethoven's - nonetheless, I can enjoy listening to Beethoven from time-to-time. What helped me appreciate Beethoven's music the most was trying to play a simple piano piece of his & failing. Playing in such a rigid way is completely unnatural to me & I wdn't get along well in a 'Beethovian' society. Still, I can appreciate the excellence of people who do play his music, who stay w/in the structure but still manage to milk every nuance out of it.

"Said Cage: "I freed the dancers from the necessity to interpret music on the level of feeling: they could make a dance in the same structure that a musician was using. They could do it independently of one another, bringing their results together as pure hypothetical meaning."" - p 19

Whatever. I love Cage's music b/c it doesn't sound like anyone else's music, esp anyone else's music contemporaneous w/ it. I still find most of it fresh to listen to. Some pieces that're 80 yrs old now still seem amazing even in today's context. But, philosophically? I realize that I cd care less. As far as I'm concerned, a new philosophy for every new piece is a good idea & these philosophies can contradict each other.

At any rate, contrast Cage's statement w/ that of another prominent Modern Dance figure, Doris Humphrey:

"There is a great difference of opinion about this point in the dance world, at least in the United States. In fact these is such a schism that the subject calls for a chapter of its own. At this point, it must be obvious that I belong to the faction that believes in motivation, feeling an emotion, as opposed to the widespread notion that these things are not only unnecessary but outmoded. It seems to me that an intellectual approach, which is central and not peripheral, is out of place in an art which has, as its medium, movement of the human body." - p 165, Doris Humphrey's "The Art of Making Dances"

The Black Mountain crowd, at Cage's prompting, gave a performance of Satie's Le Piège de Méduse, a piece that probably wasn't out on record yet & a personal favorite for me. This was followed soon thereafter by a theatrical piece of much more innovative form.

"Relatively few people beyond Black Mountain ever knew of Le Piège de Méduse. The same cannot be said of a theatrical evening presented during the summer of 1952. Many art history books now credit this particular evening with being the prototype of the "Happenings" that took place in the late fifties and early sixties. Claes Oldenburg demurs, writing in Store Days, "It should have been made clear that Happenings came about when painters and sculptors crossed into theater taking with them their way of looking and doing things."" - pp 19-20

I think Oldenburg's point is well-taken but it's worth noting that the painter Robert Rauschenberg was a part of the Black Mountain event.

"Cage delivered a timed lecture, with silences, on a ladder; Richards and Olsen read their own poetry from another ladder at different times; David Tudor played the piano; Rauschenberg played old records on an antique wind-up phonograph, and his white paintings were suspended at various angles above the audience; Cunningham danced in the aisles and around the audience, improvising his material-all the while being followed by a barking dog (whose presence was completely fortuitous)." - pp 20-21

I'm sure it was an amazing event for its time. By my standards of today it doesn't really seem that interesting, it seems too hodge-podge w/o enuf meta-structure to up the gestalt.

"Whatever it was, it was seminal, containing as it did a half-dozen or so idées fixes, leitmotifs that appeared and reappeared in Cage and Cunningham works for the twenty years I worked with them and afterward." - p 21

Now, of course, one of the works of Cage's that he's the most famous for is his so-called 'silent sonata' called 4' 33", something I 1st learned about, much to my surprise as an adult, in my 9th grade music class.

"In Cage's own words, "This is a piece in three movements during all three of which no sounds are intentionally produced. The lengths of time were determined by chance operations but could be any others."" - p 26

Surely these "chance operations" had a time limit set on them or the piece wdn't be so short. What if there were a multiple piano realization in wch every pianist in the world were performers & the "chance operations" had a lower limit of 1,000 yrs? No bathroom breaks allowed. At any rate, the following is to Cage's credit:

"In Cage's book Silence, he stated: "To whom it may concern: the white paintings came first; my silent piece came later."" - p 26

Even earlier than both Rauschenberg & Cage was the "Funeral March for the Obsequies of a Large Deaf Man" composed in 1884 by Alphonse Allais (see . Also see: ). Alsoalso, Erwin Schulhof composed a silent piece in 1919: . I don't cite these examples to diss Cage, after all I love his work, but to show that there're often predeccesors that aren't well-known b/c they weren't produced in 'the right place at the right time'. Cage was pd attn to more than most b/c the times were right for an interest in the avant-garde. Of course, in addition to that, he was also incredibly inspired & hard-working.

"Cunningham was the second male dancer to work with Graham; the first, Eric Hawkins, was already a trained ballet dancer when he joined her company." - p 32

Interesting. Hawkins later partnered w/ Lucia Dlugoszewski, yet-another composer whose work I like & someone who composed for what she called "timbre piano":

"She created over a hundred musical instruments, including the timbre piano, a sort of prepared piano in which hammers and keys were replaced with bows and plectra." -

While her timbre piano came later than Cage's considerably more well-known prepared piano it's worth noting that George Barker's composition "The Plunkety Plunk Schottische" involved preparations of the guitar & considerably predates Cage. Barker lived from 15 April 1812 ­ 2 March 1876. To quote from the liner notes from the "14 Years of Guitar Music - featuring the best of Robin Adair" tape that I publish by Donald Sauter & Friends:

"The PLUNKETY PLUNK SCHOTTISCHE was written for 3 guitars. The 1st Guitar is prepared to imitate the banjo. The 3rd Guitar plays with a Capo D'astro at 7th fret. The composer supplied these instructions "To Imitate The Banjo":

"Place a strip of paper six inches in length, and one half in width through the strings as follows: Over the small E, under the B, over the G, and D, under the A, and over the large E string, Both ends of the paper to be tucked inside the guitar through the sound hole.

"I find that such a large piece of paper deadens the sound too much. We used a 1 mm wide strip from an overhead transparency sheet, about 8 inches long. We did not tuck either end into the sound hole."

- liner notes to tape 24,

While Merce Cunningham was certainly a prominent figure in the 2nd half of the 20th century's modern dance he wasn't alone . A very condensed movie of the 22nd mm at my house in wch dance was discussed is here: . This gives a few examples of other modern dance people that I consider noteworthy, including Hawkins.

Writing about early days of studying dancing w/ Cunningham:

"There was seldom any piano accompaniment unless Cage happened to come by, in which case he'd disrupt everything by playing "The Star-Spangled Banner" or "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" in the wrong key and the wrong rhythms and often the wrong notes as well and make us all laugh and Merce furious, but helpless to fight John's infectious grin and mischievous shenanigans." - p 33

Ha ha! That's a story I've never read elsewhere & one that 'humanizes' things a bit rather than serve as another stone in the music history canonization edifice. Still, as an aside, I have to wonder about this "the wrong key" bit: "My Country, 'Tis of Thee", e.g., is in F major - wd it really make any difference if it were shifted to G major instead? I think not.

"In the forties, de Kooning, Kline, Gottlieb, Rothko, Gorky, and many others were made to feel like outcasts, even derelicts, not part of proper artistic society. Everything changed in the fifties: the painters sensed themselves differently; they'd become powerful and strong because they believed in themselves now that they were the rarae aves of the art world! Not that the general public knew or cared. Not that their work sold particularly well. But the artists knew. An undercurrent of optimism swept through the community, and it was a community then, a real family, a brotherhood. Work was everything. Perhaps most important of all, they cared about one another's work, and this caring was generously and warmly expressed. There was no expectation of monetary gain or of worldly reward in the form of power and prestige. This community of artists, in which art was still thought to possess an ethical content, attracted a whole new generation of painters, as well as writers, composers, and dancers (Earle and myself among them)." - p 35

& what a wonderful feeling of comaraderie amongst cultural conspirators that sense of community can be!! I've been there w/ neoists, w/ anarchists, w/ musicians, w/ experimental filmmakers. Alas, such communities, as exhilirating & positive as they are, are also fleeting. Still, fragile & short-lived tho they can be they're worth every minute.

Still in 1952 in the narrative, Cunningham choreographs his 1st dance using chance technique. Cage, in particular, & Cunningham, to a lesser extent, are well-known for their uses of chance in creating. What many people don't seem to realize is that Cage was a composer for 20+ yrs before he started using chance & composed an enormous body of work in that time. I have at least one composer friend who refers contemptuously to Cage's work, ridiculing its use of chance, w/o having any familiarity whatsoever w/ all the non-chance work that preceded it.

"During the fall, Cunningham was working on new choreography with some of the students in his class-Susie Bond, Remy Charlip, Jo Anne Melsher, and Marianne Preger. This new work, Suite by Chance, was the first dance in which he used chance means to structure an entire work." - p 38

Cage had learned about Pierre Boulez's music & enthusiastically supported & promoted it. (I have a website dedicated to Boulez: ) They were friends, at 1st, but Boulez was quick to reject Cage.

""The highest goal is to combine innovation with memory, to build with a consciousness of the past. That way one can create something new through an act of will, not merely by accident."

"This last statement was, perhaps, Boulez's not-so-subtle means of rebuking Cage. The philosophical disagreement between them resulted in a social break as well, much to Cage's surprise and disappointment. Although Boulez could understand-though not completely accept-Cage's basic desire for "a music free of one's memory and imagination," he could not accept Cage's determination to relinquish the desire to control sound, to clear the mind of music, and to set about discovering means to let sounds be themselves rather than be the vehicles for theories or for expressions of human sentiment. Boulez could not envisage chance as a serious compositional device." - pp 41-42

For me? I like listening to the music. If the music is fresh for me the 1st time I hear it & continues to be interesting during many repeated hearings then I like it. I think the philosophy is relevant to production but just gets in the way for listening. For the most part, Cage's music, both pre- & post- use of chance, has provided me w/ more joys of repeated listenings than most. Boulez is pretty high up there too. Alotof it just has to do w/ how original & unpredictable & rich it is.

W/ chapter 4 we reach "New York: Winter/Spring 1953":

"I traveled by automobile with Earle, John, and M. C. Richards. Five days later, Merce and the other dancers arrived by plane. Our auto trip to Urbana, Illinois, and back, via Chicago both ways, contained all the best things about life with John Cage on the road: (1) wildly utopian conversation, (2) the meeting of un-ordinary people, (3) the opening of one's senses to sights and sounds, to the natural world through John's eyes and ears, and (4) adventures in food, fun, and laughter. It was this life <combined> with the intensity of commitment to work (music, painting, dance) that enthralled me-a holistic approach to living each hour of the day that, without John, dwindled as the years went by because managers and assistant managers, unions, Merce's own practicality, and the hovering specter of the company's economic survival began to rule our lives" - pp 45-46

Let that be a lesson to us all, eh? Brown's descriptions of the road trips w/ Cage are some of my favorite parts of the overall story. When you play as hard as you work, when you're open to learning things along the way instead of just going from point A to point B in a straight line then life is likely to be more fulfilling.

"With very few exceptions, Merce was alone and undoubtedly lonely among his modern-dance peers. In his desire for the movement to be self-expressive (not expressive of the self or anything else), he was far closer in spirit and intent to the choreographic principles of Balanchine and Ashton than to the doctrines espoused by Graham, Humphrey, Weidman, or Limón and their disciples." - p 54

It's funny, such a statement made about music wd deeply affect me but when it's made about dance I don't care that much.

"How times have changed! In the sixties, the Cunningham company had the union (AGMA) forced upon it, against the wishes of just about everyone. Insidiously, the union worked its polarizing poison into the tiny cracks of discontent, dividing what had been a family into the dualism of employer/employee; worse than that-employer versus employee. It's only recently that I've heard of dancers who join the Cunningham company because it's a paying job. In the early fifties, no matter what modern-dance group one danced with, it was a privilege one paid for; paid for by outside work, any kind one could get that would allow time for daily classes and rehearsals and the infrequent performance. Rarely was anything paid beyond a token fee. In those days, because the dancers (and, of course, the choreographers) themselves subsidized modern dance-and not the NEA, NYSCA, the Ford Foundation, Exxon, Philip Morris, or any other establishment Santa Claus-the climate was radically different. The passion to dance was what sustained them." - p 56

Now, immediately following this, the next paragraph begins:

"Once we were back in New York, Earle was without a job. The Project for Magnetic Tape had to be disbanded due to lack of funds." - p 56

When Brown writes about having to pay to dance by sustaining herself w/ outside work I can relate. BIG TIME. Even tho I think it's unfortunate that this is the case, it's my opinion that, ultimately, the people who make the most interesting work are the ones who're driven by passion & not the ones who wait for the grants, etc.. When I lived in Berlin, I was pd a small amt to assemble electronic parts for a music making machine. The composer/creator had gotten a grant to pay for the making of this device but farmed out the labor to people like me. The actual music to be played by the machine was a prefabricated tune that came with the computer app that wd drive the machine. It was the spectacle of the machine that was to get the audience's interest. When the grant money ran out, the project was stopped until such time wd come that more money wd be provided.

In contrast, I built an addition on my house, at my own expense, & documented it & turned the documentation into a score. I recruited the most talented & capable musicians I knew to perform this. It was my hope that we cd get gigs that wd pay enuf to pay everyone. My fellow musicians, however, weren't motivated by money, they were motivated by the opportunity to play such a unique piece - wch they did wonderfully. Over 2 & 1/2 mnths ago we performed it at a theater that cd hold something like 300 people. The theater organization, a multi-million dollar concern, dragged their feet about publicizing it & very few people attended. Nonetheless, some money was made. However, 2.5+ mnths later I haven't been pd yet (I did FINALLY get pd after almost 3 mnths) - & I'm a 69 yr old who's been performing for something like 62 yrs. If I were doing this for money, I wd've stopped back in the '70s. Anyone interested in the gig can witness my doc about it here: .

I'm glad that the Cunningham company dancers cd finally get pd. I suspect, tho, that the time of true greatness was the early days before this happened. I think of another story: In the early 21st century, in Pittsburgh, a large space was rented collectively & turned into a community center called "Project 1877". The date-name was chosen to honor a time of great labor activism in the area. The space provided free computer access, free clothes, free food, & a very large room in which graffiti artists cd paint murals & people, such as myself, cd present events such as screenings. It was an incredible facility. Alas, Project 1877 was booted out by the landlord & replaced by a dance duo. They must've had the money to warm the cockles of the bank acct where the landlord's heart wd've been.

I'm pro-union - but even the most diehard union activist must understand that not every social/financial relation is based on money & employer-employee models. IMO, the problem for the Cunningham company wasn't so much unions per se as it probably was that they were based in NYC - a place where greed & exploitation runs even more rampant than usual. If they'd been based elsewhere, they wdn't've had problems w/ the union.

"Or perhaps it should be stated that it was Merce himself who paid for our presence, because in order to have us at Black Mountain, he gave up any fee or salary he might otherwise have been paid. Like the rest of us, he received room and board only. But he leapt at the opportunity to work undisturbed with a small group of dancers of his own choosing, and we leapt at the chance to work full-time with Merce.

"Thus, in the summer of 1953, at Black Mountain College, in the back hills of North Carolina, Merce Cunningham formed his own company." - p 62

Again, the passion. Cunningham wanted to make what he considered the best work he was capable of & he did what he had to do to make it happen, he made the sacrifices b/c what was to be gained was far more important.

"Merce couldn't afford to pay us, of course, so among us we held a crazy assortment of jobs. Working as a spy for Chock Full o' Nuts was probably the nuttiest (forgive the pun) but this was indeed how Jo Anne Melsher was employed. She was paid to check out the caliber of the service at Chock Full o' Nuts quick lunch counters around town. It meant ordering food and eating it in four or five locations around Manhattan from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. five days a week with much getting around by foot, bus, or subway, and, in Jo Anne's case, a constant battle with weight gain. What an incongruous job for a dancer! Just eighteen, with a High School of Performing Arts diploma, she could find nothing better." - pp 82-83

Ha ha! I've been a Peep Show Mechanic (as described earlier), Hot Air Balloon Ground Crew, & what I called a "Professional Asshole" (simulated patient for rectal/genital examinations) amongst mmmaaaaaaannnnnnnyyyy other things. Of course, given my social milieu I have plenty of artworks that've been given to me. Alas, some have been damaged in my many moves, in my many impoverished living circumstances. Perhaps I cd sell one or more of them in a pinch. None of them, however, is a Rauschenberg, or by anyone else who's attained similar fame & fortune.

"Nothing sold: at least nothing sold through the gallery. On the day the show came down, a few of Bob's friends bought paintings, but unfortunately for Bob, his friends were as poor as he was. When we asked the prices, Bob's answer was "I'll take whatever you have in your pocket." I think Morty Feldman had seven dollars. Earle had a rebate check from the phone company-our twenty-five-dollar deposit plus interest, a total of $26.30-which had come in that day's mail." - p 86

"For my parents, the music and dancing were shocking enough. Still, it didn't prepare them for seeing Rauschenberg's painting hanging on the wall of their daughter and son-in-law's apartment. I never knew how bad they felt until I read my mother's journal more than three decades later: "Had discussions about the hideous painting Earle paid $26.00 for-black paint, newspapers, torn, etc. Awful. Frightening. To think Earle likes it. Calls it 'free spirit.' Is he really unwell mentally? It's horrifying. I wept. Jim did too on the way home. Our spirits low, miserable."" - p 100

Ha ha! Again, I can relate. I was privy to a student reaction to a screening & performance of mine (you can witness a movie of the performance here: ). The student wrote: "On the way home I began to sob. From 695 to my driveway 45 minutes away I cried: Not because I had been offended, not because of what they said about God (He can take care of himself) but because I knew that not one of the performers there that night had ever looked into the face of the Lamb of God, or held His hand, or heard Him speak. So I cried, I cried and prayed... that they each would get a chance to experience such a thing so that they might reject it or accept it knowing what they were accepting or rejecting. The only thing that seems rewarding about having attended this performance is knowing that the people I came to see might benefit from my having gone." - "Reactionary Muddle America"

"I was made acutely aware that the Theater de Lys season was very nearly a one-man show, with Merce onstage dancing nonstop from the moment the curtain rose at 8:40 p.m. until it fell at the end of each performance about two hours later. But he showed little pleasure, as I recall, and for most of that week seemed depressed. On the last evening, when it was over, I saw him sitting motionless, alone in the men's dressing room after everyone else had cleared out; he looked dispirited and hollow-eyed. I asked if he was all right; his reply was direct and devastating: "My jump is gone. I'll never be able to jump again as I used to." He was thirty-four years old, and for him at that moment, this was a tragedy. It was his nimble-footed jump that had won him accolades in Martha Graham's company" - p 95

Indeed. & I've seen at least one photo of Cunningham leaping, legs spread wide enuf to be parallel to the floor, seemingly at least 5 ft off the floor, maybe even more. Maybe my memory is exaggerating, maybe he was even higher!! Whatever the case, such a leap was Olympian, the skill & agility equalled by few or none. When I saw the Cunningham company perform in 1997 or thereabouts in Pittsburgh Cunningham wasn't dancing anymore, he came out on stage for bows at the end, walking w/ extreme bow-legs. Aging & decaying is a particular nightmare for those of us who push ourselves to live at full capacity while we can.

Having recently read & reviewed Doris Humphrey's "The Art of Making Dances" (my complete review is here: ), I was interested in how Brown puts her in perspective:

"Few from the Establishment Modern Dance (Graham, Humphrey, Weidman, Limón, Holm) attended" - p 96

"Both the New York Times and the New York Herald Tribune printed news releases that we sent out over a span of three or four weeks, but neither John Martin from the Times nor Walter Terry from the Tribune reviewed a single performance!"


"For the dance critics of New York's major daily newspapers to turn their backs on a week of performances of fifteen dances, nine of them new to New York, presented in an off-Broadway professional theater by a young choreographer whose work had been considered of sufficient interest to be presented by Ballet Society would be unheard-of today. It was preposterous then." - p 96

Unheard-of today? I have my doubts about that. Mainstream newspaper art critics don't want their critical base challenged, they've climbed the dog-eat-dog ladder, gotten their due-due, & they intend to not have that ladder rocked by upstarts. I remember when I sent my press release for the 3 day PXL Fest I organized in 1991 to the Baltimore Sun I got into a conversation w/ a writer there who asked me something to the effect of 'Don't you think it's ridiculous to base a festival around a TOY?!' Nonetheless, museums have since featured PXL work of considerably lower imagination & skill than what I featured in my fest (the catalog & compilation from my festival is here: ). Any new work that challenges the 'rules' & standard procedures of older established work is going to be ignored or rejected by most newspaper critics b/c they're afraid of looking like a fool for supporting work that might turn out to be the loser in future horse(-shit) races.

"Newsweek ignored both the choreography and the dancing. Their article discussed only the musique concrète, reporting that to the layman's ear most of the music for magnetic tape sounded "pretty strange" and likened Christian Wolff's music for Suite by Chance to Dennis the Menace let loose with an amateur shortwave set." - p 98

Shortly after John Cage died in 1992 I heard a NYC radio talk show in wch his passing was mentioned. The level of intellectual discourse was still the same. The host made some imbecilic comment about Cage playing the kitchen sink & laughed. Even after he'd long since become widely respected in the classical music world as a paradigm shifter there were still the dunces poking fun at what they didn't understand. & why didn't they understand it? It was their job to ridicule anything & everything that didn't represent power in their shallow world.

"Nineteen fifty-four. It seemed as though everyone was on the move. Everyone, that is, except the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. Only two dates materialized, both at the Academy of Music in Brooklyn-one in January, a few days after the Theatre de Lys season, the other in December, nearly eleven months later, with not a single performance in between." - p 101

Once again, I can relate. Here they were, a dance company making radical new work that required great skill & intelligence & imagination but no-one was exactly clamoring for them. In 1983, I gave an internationally infamous performance called "T he Poop & Pee Dog Copyright Violation Ceremony" ( ). Instead of there being intense interest in my work there was interest in trying to put me in jail. I had to ask for permission from my supervised probation officer to leave the country to participate in the 8th International Neoist Apartment Festival in the beginning of 1984. 25 yrs later, the 1st performance by my chamber orchestra, HiTEC (Histrionic Thought Experiment Cooperative) at the New Hazlett Theater ( ) was met w/ some acclaim, w/o the scandal of 1983's activities, but attempts to get funding were received w/ application guideline changes that conveniently put me out of the running. Now that I'm 69, attempts to get gigs are received w/ no reply at all more often than not. I might do something different from what other people are doing & we can't have that now, can we?! But things were looking up for Cunningham - after all, they were only a challenge to an esoteric part of the status quo that not many people really cared about.

"Merce was tired and discouraged, feeling ignored by the New York papers and betrayed by his own body. But that spring, he received a psychological boost as well as a financial one-a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship to the tune of three thousand dollars!" - p 104

That 1954 $3,000 was the equivalent of $33,201.97 today ( ). Not bad. I cd live quite nicely off that in the upcoming 2023.

"While Earle slaved away, Merce's own activities came to a standstill. Rumored performance dates fell through. Even classes stopped. We didn't return to work with him until the end of September, just shortly before John and David left on a whirlwind tour of Europe, where they performed the new piano and tape music of Brown, Cage, Feldman, and Wolff in Donaueschingen, Cologne, Paris, Brussels, Zurich, and London. With great fanfare we waved them off on the Maasdam on a Saturday in early October. Imagine our surprise when the next evening they walked in on Merce, Earle, and me as we were having dinner at Peter McManus's pub. "What are you doing here?" we screamed. In the fog, somewhere off the coast of Nantucket, their ship had collided with a French freighter."


"The Cage/Tudor performances of new American avant-garde music, predating all aleatoric and open form experiments by European composers, drove a wedge deep into the grain of Europe's well-seasoned wood, splitting asunder the belief that Europeans were at the forefront of musical innovation." - p 111

I wonder if this type of rivalry is still ongoing? I live in Pittsburgh, I'd love it if I felt like there were a dynamic Pittsburgh music scene that's as exciting as anything that's happening anywhere else.. but I don't think that's true. I don't even think that I'm in touch w/ whatever the newest & most innovative music is anywhere. I don't think I know anyone who thinks they're on top on that either. I wish I did. I think Cage & Tudor really were deeply knowledgable of what was happening in their time. On October 29, 2021, I sent out this question: "What do you think is the most exciting music of the 21st century?!" to my Music Bulk Email List which has 160 recipients. 28 people replied by email. I turned the correspondence into an article published on Medium here: & into a 21st Century Music playlist on YouTube here: . Most of what's on the playlist is my own (M)Usic. I don't think there's any rivalry on there, esp any nationalistic/regionalistic rivalry. I just think there're people making interesting (m)usic wherever they are. Maybe some of them are enjoying financial & popular support, while others of us aren't. If there's any sort of theoretical race for 'dominance' I'm not aware of it.

It seems like it was more clear-cut post WWII: philosophical competition between pure electronic music & musique concrète; philosophical competition between tonalism & serialism, between serialism & chance. Between the Germans & the French, between the Europeans & the Americans - w/ the rest of the world hardly factored in at all.

"Merce wanted to present Springweather and People at that festival. We auditioned the dance on a Sunday afternoon in mid-March at Martha Graham's studio on East Sixty-third Street for a viewing committee made up of de Rothschild, Doris Humphrey, Don Duncan (publicity representative), and an elderly gentleman who was then the secretary of the Bethsabée de Rothschild Foundation of Arts and Sciences." - p 117

"Afterward, politely, they told Merce that they would call him. Not so politely, they never did. Merce waited. We waited while Merce waited. But the call never came. We were left with dashed hopes and the feeling that we'd been treated badly." - p 118

What's up w/ that? Certainly it's not that hard to politely tell someone that they've been rejected - or, even more tactfully, not selected. Instead, it seems like cowardice &/or psychological warfare - make the peasants wait & give them nothing b/c the power-people decide that they're too unimportant to be a threat to their glacial prominence, as if they're simply ignored as if they're unworthy of basic decency - i.e.: putting the upstarts 'in their place'. Anyone who subjects someone else to such a degrading process is in no way worthy of my respect.

"Back in the city, I received a phone call from Merce instructing me to start passport proceedings. All those letters John had been writing were producing results! But less than two weeks later, John's application to the Asiatic Institute for funds for the tour was turned down, and coincidentally we learned that the United States government was going to send Martha Graham and company to the Orient." - p 126

Things weren't always so bad.

"In Tacoma, a reviewer thought it worthwhile to mention that, "Following the program a horde of young autograph-seekers crowded backstage and were graciously received by Cunningham and his dancers and the musicians.["]" - p 137

Now, by this point, Cage was in his early 40s & Cunningham was in his 30s. It's easy to retroactively look at the careers of (in)famous people & see them in their fullness as successes but while they're living them they don't always seem that way.

"Merce had given up his Sheridan Square studio on the strength of John's dogged determination to keep the company touring for several months. Neither Merce nor John had a penny; both were in debt, with no reliable source of steady income. Since this predicament was common to most of us, they both felt responsible, and John felt horribly guilty. John didn't live long enough to know the disheartening story of just why the company was rejected by the Dance Panel (part of the cultural diplomacy arm of the State Department) that year. But in 1998, formerly classified documents revealed the partisan politics practiced by some members of that panel (especially Martha Hill and Doris Humphrey), and these were exposed in Dance for Export: Cultural Diplomacy and the Cold War" - p 138

Predictably, as someone who's an anarchist I'm not likely to apply for State Dept funds & it's more than a little hard to feel sorry when Cage & Cunningham don't get them. Still, knowing that Humphrey worked behind the scenes to prevent this funding for them makes me considerably less enthusiastic about her & her work.

"For the next two and a half years the existence of the company was more often a matter of faith than fact. Largely John's faith. In 1956, there were eleven performances, six of them-thanks to Ted Shawn-at Jacob's Pillow, and none in New York. In 1957 there were only five and one-quarter performances. Even worse was the first half of 1958, with a total of two and one-third performances." - p 141

Those don't seem like such bad yrs to me. Cunningham was born April 16, 1919. He wd've been 37 thru most of 1956. I was 37 thru most of 1991. I gave 10 'performances' that yr ( ), 3 of them in guerrilla conditions, 5 more for no admission fee, 2 at a gallery.

"Few of his dreams were realized in 1956. The first major disappointment was to discover that the verbal agreement made by the San Francisco Ballet to commission a work by Cunningham, Cage, and Rauschenberg was just talk. No contract was ever forthcoming. Then, the spring tour for the dance company never materialized; no firm bookings. The Monday-night series of music and dance concerts planned for May and June in a little theater at Carnegie Hall also came to nought; John couldn't raise the money fast enough." - p 144

Of course, despite these frequent disappointments, Cage & Cunningham et al persevered & continued to increase their triumphs. That's what people do who're driven by motives other than monetary ones, other than popularity ones. Brown had her opportunities to make more money & get more prestige off of mainstream dance but she held true to pursuing the dance she found most exciting.

"I needed to know-should I be accepted into the Opera Ballet-whether I would be allowed to do the five performances for which Merce had already signed contracts. (The first engagement was only two and a half weeks away!) "Absolutely not," he said. "The Met will not excuse you for even one day." It was then that I explained that I really did not want to be in the Met but saw no alternative at the moment, that although I wanted to work with Merce, there was no money and I would not continue dancing without some income. "Never dance for money. Better to starve doing something one loves." For those words he still has my heartfelt thanks and overwhelming respect." - p 162

So much for a career w/ the Metropolitan Opera Ballet. The advice she rc'vd may seem like romantic impractical drivel to many or most people but, as far as I'm concerned, it's the only way to go if you're truly driven to be great.

"To give two performances we drove for two days and one-third of the way across the country" - p 164

Over & over, I can relate. For me, setting up gigs to tour to is almost impossible. I really don't know how the people who're successful at it do it.

The Cunningham company continues to be ignored by The New York Times. To most or all of my liberal friends The Times seems to be in high regard - but from time-to-time I see evidence of their abuse of power that makes them, for me, just another propaganda machine.

"The New York Times's dance critic, John Martin, suffered no such pangs; he hadn't bothered to come at all. Considered (in 1957) the dean of American dance critics, he claimed to have been "too busy." At least that's what he told Remy. And since he didn't deem the event of sufficient interest to send someone in his place (there were no second- or third-string staff dance writers on the Times in those days), once again there was no review in New York's most distinguished newspaper. When it came to Merce's work, John Martin would always be, in my view, thoroughly unprofessional." - p 169

"I won't attempt to defend the music. Certainly some of it I disliked intensely, and among the company dancers I was not alone. If I found it unbearable, I tried to "turn it off," tried to not hear it, because it could be disruptive, painful, even violating. For me, those pieces did not coexist with the choreography, they competed with it, even attempted to annihilate it, like an insanely jealous lover. But I think there is no denying the paradox that some of the music, without having much distinction on its own, made a definite contribution to the work as a whole. And occasionally the music was truly extraordinary-dynamic and multifacted." - p 172

For me, the music is the entry point, something that I'm more interested in than I am in the dance. As such, it's tempting to just poke fun at Brown here. Still, that wdn't really be fair. Throughout the bk she gets more specific about the times when the music bothered her the most & she has 2 main complaints: painful volume & technical dysfunctionality. I find them both valid.

Brown recounts all the struggling yrs, all the financial uncertainty - she had no way of knowing that the company's fortunes wd eventually be reversed. Nor did she have any way of knowing that the Radio City Music Hall, where she danced for awhile, wd leave its time of prosperity behind in her lifetime. Brown's stint at the Music Hall involved things like this:

"We still had a short tap sequence with the Rockettes in the finale-vulgar, corny stuff standing on a staircase, Busby Berkeley style, constumed in tiny black velveteen bathing suits, cut low in the bust and high in the leg, a blue sequined strip from crotch to bust, and a black velveteen, blue-sequined tail attached to our bottoms and one wrist, black elastic mesh hose, and blue feathers in our hair. We did a series of bumps and grinds, high leg-kicks, plus a couple of rudimentary tap steps." - p 182

"Obviously, I had no crystal ball to tell me that by the eighties the Music Hall's golden age would be over and the former marvel would become a white elephant fighting to survive while the little modern-dance company, grown a little larger, would be thriving, operating with a budget in the millions of dollars, its creator nationally recognized at the 1985 Kennedy Center Honors as "an individual who throughout his lifetime has made a significant contribution to American culture through the performing arts."" - p 177

Still, is it really such a surprise that the Cunningham company wd eventually get the big bucks? After all, they represent a step forward in a classical art form, one respected by the rich - &, not ultimately a significant subversion. Cf any Cunningham dance to my "Paper Dolls in Dava's Class" ( ) (1981) & you'll understand why, <of course>, they'd get the money while I'd be perpetually despised. But regardless of how ultimately bourgeois the Cunningham company may or may not've been there's always something about the music that engrosses me.

"The first, Labyrinthian Dances, would eventually be accompanied by a relatively obscure piece of music rediscovered by David Tudor and written by Josef Matthias Hauer (1889­1959), a self-taught Austrian composer still living at the time, who had developed a twelve-tone system of musical composition independently of Arnold Schoenberg" - p 184

Schönberg & Hauer both lived in Vienna too. I didn't 1st learn about Hauer until 1976 & now, 46 yrs later, I still haven't heard enuf of his music. Therefore, Tudor using his music in the late 1950s is of substantial significance to me.

"Paul Taylor's most wonderful and infamous concert"


"The scores for Seven New Dances included commisioned music by Cage, plus a collaged tape-recording by Rauschenberg of wind sounds, rain sounds, and "noise," as well as that anonymous telephone voice that announces the time every fifteen seconds. Paul's solo, made up of a series of curious, static poses, was accompanied by the telephone voice ("The correct time is . . . exactly . . ." ad infinitum). Electric fans stirred the air, gently blowing the women's dresses. A dog sauntered onstage. And one whole dance consisted of a single tableau with Paul standing and his partner Toby Glanternik (a Juilliard classmate of ours), sitting on the floor for an interminable length of time." - pp 185-186

& it's reading that that prompted me to buy a DVD of movies of Taylor dances. I'd already seen a fair amt of Cunningham dances movies but I got Alla Kovgan's "Cunningham" & watched it during the time I was making it thru this bk too. I found the doc ok but, ultimately, it falls into a conventional 'slick doc' category where the overall structure & look is just too damned predictable & the general audience's inability to have a long attn span is catered to.

"In "A Meander" I sought to discover the lyrical continuity (or what the brilliant Russian ballet coach Elena Tchernichova calls cantilena), not by counting out measures and phrases but by totally immersing myself in the movement, physically and emotionally; sensing it, feeling it acutely, discovering the weight and breadth and length of each movement, not in relation to anything other than my own body in time and space."


"The occasion of its first performance-in Pittsburgh, on May 21, 1958-was also the occasion of the only duet concert Merce and I ever danced in America."


"It didn't matter at all that we were dancing on a dirty little stage with inadequate lighting equipment before a small audience in the middle of the day." - p 196

I was 4 yrs old & my family had just moved to a suburban/rural area near the Baltimore city limits. Imagine having parents interested in culture enuf for them to've driven all the way to Pittsburgh (the highways wd've been far more limited then) just for this event. That didn't happen.

"Meanwhile, Bob and Jap, doing well with their window-display jobs for Bonwit Teller and Tiffany, wanted to share their good fortune with John. Joined by the entrepreneur Emile de Antonio, they organized a twenty-five year retrospective concert of John's music at Town Hall on May 15, 1958, and contributed one thousand dollars each to cover the costs." - p 198

& a 2 record boxset from this concert was published by Folkways. What an utterly amazing concert that must've been. I, foolishly as it seems to me now, passed by acquiring a used copy of that boxset & just made a tape copy of it instead. This was during a phase of my life when I was resisting object accumulation more than I do now. Cage's friends really loved & respected him. Do you have friends who wd do something like that for you? I sure don't. Of course, Cage totally deserved it & he had an incredible body of work at age 45, his age at the time of the event. It's funny reading De Antonio described as an "entrepreneur" - I only know of him as a filmmaker.

Doris Humphrey appears again:

"Reading her autobiography many years later, I was shocked to learn of the hardships, stoicism, and sadness that had permeated her life. So much suffering. So little joy." - p 202

"Humphrey was always a formidable presence, both at Juilliard and at Connecticut College. I was in awe of her and probably misread her absolutely forbidding, humorless, and imperious manner whenever our paths crossed." - p 203

Marilyn Wood, an American choreographer & dancer asked Cunningham: ""Do you have something particular in mind in these dances?"" (p 213) to wch he merely replied ""Yes."" (p 213)

"We had to explain to her that Merce mistrusted words as descriptions of dances and was leery of putting literary ideas into our heads, fearing that we'd attempt to interpret them rather than allowing the choreography to speak for itself. It was not that he wanted us devoid of our own ideas about his dances, but that he hoped our ideas, whatever they were, would grow from the pure seed of movement." - p 214

Maybe I'm just a sucker for gimmicks but it's this sort of thing that makes me interested:

"It was Merce's idea to have a chair strapped to his back in our duet Room for Two ("like a large mosquito that won't go away . . . or like a leech, like chairs are")" - p 214

Brown compares the social atmosphere differences between dancers & composers:

"Having just come from six weeks at Connecticut College's summer session, I found the contrast between the two places startling. Among the Biggies at Connecticut, the atmosphere could only be described as guarded and suspicious, with none of the animated give-and-take that invigorated the international group of contemporary composers at Darmstadt, where the intellectual excitement was actually visible." - pp 224-225

I've been around composers & musicians far more than I've been around choreographers & dancers but Brown's observations do jive w/ my own limited ones. Choreographers & dance teachers seem to maintain an aloof attitude that is supposed to imbue them w/ deep dignity & poise. I find it rather off-putting.

"What made the press conference memorable was meeting Rolf de Maré, who, when only twenty-one years old, founded Les Ballets Suédois in Paris in 1920, and in 1924 produced the infamous Dadaist extravaganza Relache, which boasted the collaborative efforts of Francis Picabia, Erik Satie, Jean Borling, and René Clair. Both John and Merce had often spoken of Relache and had sent me off to the Guggenheim Museum to see René Clair's extrordinary film Entr'acte, in which John's heroes-Marcel Duchamp, Picabia, Man Ray, and Satie-made cameo appearances. Although Rolf de Maré's Ballet Suédois was even shorter-lived than Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, both men had created collaborative meeting grounds for avant-garde painters, composers, and writers, and, I believe, served as role models and inspiration for John." - p 233

& Relache & Entr'acte still continued to inspire at least one person 2 generations later than Cage in the form of yrs truly. One can only hope to be producing work that potent for future generations to love. Varèse's contribution to the Brussels World's Fair in 1958 is another such example.

"Poème électronique was another gut-level experience, not only aurally and visually but intellectually and spiritually. It was, in a word, awesome. Four hundred and twenty-five speakers were embedded in the wall of Le Corbusier's building. Each showing lasted only 480 seconds-exactly eight minutes. For each hearing, one was free to move around the many-leveled, soaring space of the pavilion and to be engulfed by the music from a different aural and visual vantage point of one's own choosing." - p 239

Of course, many more people than Varése deserve credit here: Le Corbusier, Iannis Xenakis, & the Philips Corporation. That's another experience that attendees were very fortunate to witness. Do you have any such experiences in yr life?

"Margaret Erlanger, the dance students, and the university's administration viewed Merce's residency as a success. Merce viewed it as a disaster. The first and continuing problem was the music. Working closely with John and John's colleagues for so many years had in no way prepared Merce for working with two unknown composers whose compositional methods and aesthetic orientations were vastly different and far more conventional. His choreography reflected this by relating more conventionally to the music than was his normal practice.

"Ben Johnston's Gambit for Dancers and Orchestra was a quasi-jazz score, sort of "Third Stream" à la Gunther Schuller, The music by Chou Wen-Chung, From the Poems of White Stone, was for orchestra and a chorus of seventeen. The poems by Chiang Kuei (c. 1155-c. 1221 A.D.) were sung in Chinese, but one reviewer commented that "the inflection was strictly Italiante." Both compositions, entirely different one from the other, were light-years apart from the music we'd grown accustomed to hearing. It was not an unwelcome change for the dancers. The fun was dancing to a live orchestra." - p 146

Yet another event I wished I'd witnessed. I'm at least a little familiar w/ both the composers. Ben Johnston is largely well-known for composing microtonal music, an ongoing interest of mine, Chou Wen-Chung is mainly known to me as the composer who completed Varèse's "Nocturnal". Both are of interest to me - as is Third Stream music, music that's a hybrid of jazz & classical. Cunningham's last letter from this residency mentions another favorite composer:


While in the context of Cunningham's letter Partch's comment seems a bit numbskulled, Partch was certainly NOT an IDIOT. Not only was he another highly original composer but he, like John Cage, set an excerpt from James Joyce's "FINNEGANS WAKE" to music (1944). Cage's "The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs" (1942) was the 1st of his "FINNEGANS WAKE" pieces. Given the chronological closeness of these pieces, Cage & Partch were contemporaries in this interest. I've made my own homage to other people's works based on "FINNEGANS WAKE" called "Skeletal Remains" (2012): . Unfortunately, it doesn't include samples from Partch's "Two Settings" or pieces by at least one other relevant composer b/c I didn't know about these works at the time. There's plenty of Cage.

"Six years and twenty-two dances after the birth of his own company at Black Mountain, Merce could still only hope for the odd performance, scheduled helter-skelter throughout any given year. In 1959 we gave a total of nine performances, three of those on programs shared with other companies." - pp 253-254

Of course, that's only a relative paucity. No doubt other more conventional dance companies like Martha Graham's got more performances for better money but that doesn't mean that Cunningham wasn't better off than other performers who were more challenging. To again compare w/ my own experience: Cunningham was 40 throughout most of 1959, I was 40 throughout most of 1994. That was a good yr for me, I was in Berlin for part of the time & CacaNada for part of the time. I gave 13 'performances': the 1st of Cage's "Theatre Piece" & "Radio Music" in BalTimOre. The next 7 were in the context of a cable TV show that I worked on creating in Berlin. Then it was off to Brighton, England, for participation in someone else's concert & back to Berlin for an UNCERT of my own. Then off to München for another concert of someone else's. I topped the yr off w/ 2 more UNCERTS in CacaNada: the 1st in Durham, the 2nd in Toronto. None of these made enuf for me to even pay for food. Descriptions of these can be found here: . Still, it was a great yr.

Brown was in the 1st performance of "Theatre Piece" & since that's one of my favorite pieces of Cage's, one that I put serious work into performing, I read Brown's telling w/ avid attn.

"On Monday, March 7, about three weeks after the Phoenix concert, John Cage's Theatre Piece was given its world premiere at the Circle in the Square Theatre. Theatre Piece is an indeterminate work that evolved from Water Walk, one of the solo pieces John made for and performed on television when he was appearing as a mushroom expert on the Italian quiz show Lascia o raddoppia. Water Walk involved the use of a large number of properties and a single track tape."


"There were eight of us performing: David Tudor, piano; Don Butterfield, tuba; Frank Rehak, trombone; Arline Carmen, contralto; Nicola Cernovish and Richard Nelson, lighting designers; Merce and me."

- p 263

"I would guess that of the eight performers only three of us actually sat down with our parts, and with rulers and cards measured and shuffled, asked the four questions allowed, and honestly tried to realize the piece as John had intended." - pp 263-264

When I performed this piece in 1994, it was at the 14 Karat Cabaret in BalTimOre on February 11th or 12th, 1994. To quote from my relevant "Mere Outline" entry: "The cast were: myself, Kirk-Evan Billet, Sarmad Brody, Dawn Culbertson, L.J.Schollenberger, John Eaton, & Leroy Keltner. Sarmad & I (at Sarmad's suggestion) resorted to each listening through headphones to our own prepared tapes to tell us precisely when to do what." I took the score very seriously & spent 40 hrs preparing my part. I think Sarmad spent about the same amt of time. I don't know about the others. Since I had to make my own part & since I didn't want to have it be on paper the tape that I listened to told me exactly when to do what specific things. That enabled me to be very precise. I thought the performance was phenomenal. Unfortunately, I asked a friend to video-document it for us & when I asked her for the tape she told me that, 'Oh, I taped over it' as if shooting it had somehow been all that was expected. Less than a decade later, I met a musician in Pittsburgh who sd he'd performed it & I asked him how long he spent preparing his part. He told me "a half hour". In other words, he'd pd no attn to the score whatsoever. I was disgusted.

"One of our class accompanists in 1959 was Frederick Rzewski, a college friend of Christian Wolff's. Although a brilliant pianist-composer, he was hopeless as a dance accompanist, as well as being unbelievably arrogant, overbearing, and intolerant as only a precocious Harvard-trained twenty-one-year-old can be, but he was also very poor and desperately needed the job. Scornful of the art he was paid to serve, he would caustically observe that dancers are stupid because they require rhythmic accompaniment. Scornful, that is, until Merce's lecture-demonstration, when Fred was visibly humbled by the simple eloquence of Merce's words and the virtuosity of his dancing. Immediately afterward, he turned to me shamefacedly and muttered, "I feel like a fool." From that moment his attitude toward us changed radically." - p 254

As w/ so many of the stories in this bk, this story deeply resonates w/ me b/c I'm familiar w/ the work of the person written about. This familiarity isn't based on such folks being 'celebrities', b/c by conventional standards they aren't, not the way that rock musicians or actors are, but b/c they're prominent people in an area that's my passion. Rzewski is another favorite composer & pianist. I had the pleasure of 1st meeting Rzewski when he played piano at Wholey's, a Pittsburgh seafood market. An avant-garde political piano virtuoso playing in the cafeteria! He was at Wholey's, I'm told, b/c one of his sons worked there. It was wonderful & it made it to my "Top 100 Concerts" list online ( ). The beginning of the concert is on YouTube here: & continues elsewhere. My limited experiences w/ conversation w/ Rzewski were pleasant & were fortunately devoid of any of the arrogance that Brown describes. He was also an old man.

"About this time, another art form-the underground or independent cinema-was beginning to excite much interest, and another zany production, a film called Pull My Daisy, was being discussed in all the downtown bars and bistros. Known today as "the key beat film of its generation,"" - p 258

&, AGAIN, this resonates w/ me. I'm an "underground or independent" moviemaker. My 1st film was made in 1975, 16 yrs after the time Brown's describing. Of course, things have changed: I'm not sure that either "underground or independent" are adequately descriptive anymore - just as "experimental" is usually misleading. Moviemakers who consider themselves 'low-budget' might have budgets for one production greater than all the 'budgets' combined for all 708 (as of December, 2022) of mine ( ). ALSO, the thought of any 'underground' movie these days "being discussed in all the downtown bars and bistros" seems impossibly utopic. I make my movies, rarely know of any screening possibilities for them, & post them on YouTube & the Internet Archive where I'm lucky if ONE friend of mine watches them. Another former friend still appears to be somewhat obsessed w/ my work but he seems to watch it just for the sake of stimulating some hateful comment. Warning to fledgling minor celebrities: avoid yr fans like the plague, if you don't give them exactly what they want they will turn on you & can be quite vicious. Being nice & supportive will definitely NOT be enuf. Esp don't have sex w/ them.

"Chance and Circumstance" is chockful of references to things cultural of central significance to me. Happenings, e.g., have always struck me as some of the most vitally creative performance work to ever occur.

"For me, the truly brilliant stars of the Happening circuit were Claes Oldenburg and Robert Whitman-both artists whose sense of visual theater was electrifying. Little of their Happenings could be traced to Cage's influence." - p 267

& one of the most recent bks I've acquired is "Allan Kaprow & Claes Oldenburg - Art, Happenings, & Cultural Politics" (2017) by Robert E. Haywood. It's rare for me to see anything new about Happenings so I'm excited!

"In the spring of 1953 we saw Duchamp's work firsthand for the first time at the Sidney Janus Gallery in the International Dada Exhibition, a wonderfully eclectic show that had been assembled, catalogued, and installed under Duchamp's direction. The installation reminded me of a fun-house labyrinth. The catalogue-if one can so name a single large piece of tissue paper crushed into a wad, with copies to be found heaped in a wastebasket at the entrance of the show-was, according to Duchamp, "a Dada gesture to cancel the seriousness of exhibition catalogs."" - p 268

Another reason for loving Duchamp's work. I just looked online for copies of the catalog for sale & the cheapest one I found was $6,500. It looks like the joke's on Duchamp now. His gesture has been out-gestured by the ever-so-predictable capitalist greed. I have a publication called "dop e #5-6" that I still sell for $2. It's also selling online for $100. When I informed the seller that I still sell it for $2 they didn't remove the posting or bring the price down.

Cunningham choregraphed a dance to the music of Conlon Nancarrow.

"Conlon Nancarrow's raucous music-player pianos jangling as though a hundred barroom doors had been thrown open to the wind, to paraphrase Doris Hering's review in Dance Magazine-blasting forth from the auditorium's loudspeakers pinned the audience to their seats even before the houselights dimmed and the curtain opened." - p 276

That's one of the poorest descriptions of Nacarrow's music I've ever read. That sd, I'd like to hear the sound of "a hundred barroom doors had been thrown open to the wind" although it appears that the reviewer didn't want to. As for the volume? That's not blameable on Nancarrow, necessarily - it wd've been a production decision.

"The accompaniment for Cross Currents was now a tape of collaged Conlon Nancarrow music, arranged by John and David. I raged in my journal: "I HATE IT! It's aggressive, ugly, loud, humorless and just does not go with the dance at all. Merce originally made the dance with a jazz score, and it had been such fun to do. Remy thought the score awful too. We both told John, and he was hurt of course, but said he'd fix it."" - p 398

It's really hard for me to imagine that the original Nancarrow music wasn't great. It seems likely that Cage & Tudor repurposed it in some way that was insensitive.

The dance troupe got to go to Venice where the more reknowned & fortunate of them get to stay w/ the very wealthy arts matron Peggy Guggenheim.

"The next day I wrote to my parents: "I'm sorry I ever used words like 'incredible' or 'fabulous' because suddenly there aren't any words to describe the last eighteen hours." The sleek, gold-trimmed gondola awaiting us was Peggy Guggenheim's-one of only seven private gondolas in Venice in 1960. Peggy had sent it to fetch us, as John and Merce were to be her houseguests." - p 279

When I think of Guggenheim, I think of the museum, of course, but also of the woman who was married to Max Ernst & the woman who helped European artists escape from the nazis to the US. In other words, all positive things - as such, it's probably a good thing that I never met her b/c I'd expect to be snubbed & that wd ruin my impression. Eventually, the Browns got to stay at Guggenheim's Venice palace too.

"Earle's first and my twenty-sixth night in Venice was spent in a big canopy bed between pink sheets in a pink bedroom with a window opening directly onto the twenty-four hours spectacle of the Grand Canal, its magical sounds and scenic splendor."


"The next morning, moments after I'd pushed the bell at our bedside, there was a knock on our door and a cheery voice called, "Buon giorno! Colazione?" Breakfast in bed in a palazzo overlooking the Grand Canal? I suppose one can get used to anything. No matter what Peggy eventually came to think of me, I'm fairly certain that without Earle I would never have been invited to stay in her palazzo. It was no secret that she was partial to men, be they straight or gay, and she tolerated only the most illustrious women." - p 292

"After finally giving notice that he was quitting his job as mixer with Capitol Records to compose full-time, Earle had a new job offer as director of a Time Records Contemporary Sound Series, with complete freedom to select the repertoire and the artists, dropped in his lap. He was in New York working like a demon. There wasn't much money involved, but it was an opportunity to record the music he passionately believed in. Immediately, he began work on a recording of Cage's early percussion music. Later he would go to Europe to line up European composers and performers for future recordings." - p 282

& that series of records is probably my favorite series of them all. I have at least 17 of them in my aRCHIVE.

"Merce, David, and I went our separate ways. In Cologne, Earle had purchased a 1951 black Mercedes Benz for $130, and between recording sessions for Time Records' Contemporary Sound Series, talks with publishers, and trips to hear performances of Boulez, Stockhausen, et al., the two of us were able to travel a bit for fun. It was heaven. To be alone with Earle. To be NOT dancing, NOT performing, NOT taking class." - p 310

Alas, eventually their 2 not-often-overlapping rigorous schedules helped drive a wedge, their rarely even being in the same country drove a wedge into their marriage. Romantic that I am I was glad that they at least had these moments of bliss before that happened.

"Waka, with music by Toshi Ichiyanagi, was excrutiatingly slow, almost hypnotic. It was a dance for the torso and arms, with almost no movement through space. Gravity-of spirit and body-a sense of quietude, introspection, and rapt concentration were needed to pull it off. Merce, concerned that I didn't have sufficient "weight' in my arm gestures, asked Bob Rauschenberg to design hand weights as part of my costume." - p 284

1st, themusicthemusicthemusic: it seems that any Cunningham performance wd be a stunning introduction of some of the most innovative music of the time. 2nd, the addition of hand weights: what a great idea & a great way to introduce a subtle detail in the movement. A girlfriend of mine once gave me a shirt w/ those v-shaped things you squeeze to strengthen yr hand muscles attached to the ends of the sleeves. I still have it.

One thing I learned from reading this is that Cage was a gambler who liked to go to casinos. Given that I think gambling's generally a bad idea, a carrot-on-a-stick for wishful thinkers, that surprised me.

"Meanwhile John won every time he played, but his exuberance was somewhat quashed by our losses. He was determined to go on playing until he recovered them, but we dragged him away before his luck could change. I never went again, but, happy as a bird dog in hunting season, John continued his trips to the casino and went on winning." - p 286

"With one exception, all the actions the two of us performed were determined by him. The exception: I dreamed up an entrance for myself that involved a long climb into the highest reaches of the flies, a crawl on all fours along the catwalk and, with the help of a stagehand (astonished by my bravery), a precarious clamber into an armchair that had been rigged for my deliciously terrifying descent to the stage floor 'miles' below, where the grand piano looked no bigger than a kidney bean!" - p 289

COOL! Still in Venice, 1960:

"On our way home we passed another street café filled with students playing instruments. They saw John and called to him to play a piece. John and M. Kagel, Heinz Klaus Metzger, Frank Amey and I, and I think someone else (probably David Tudor) did the La Monte Young chair music-pushing, pulling and sliding chairs around over the cobblestone square. The students cheered." - p 297

An historic moment full of the best of life. For me, the more moments like that there are, the happier I am.

No longer in Venice but still in Europe, 1960:

"Backstage, Mary Wigman kissed me and murmured complimentary words, but just what she said I couldn't hear, so flustered and honored was I to be meeting Gemany's most famous, indeed legendary, modern dancer." - p 302

I've seen a short black & white film of Wigman dancing a dance she was famous for, something very wild & wooly. I was impressed. I was saddened, tho, to later learn that she'd complied w/ the nazis & fired a Jewish teacher at her Berlin dancing school. Alas, Brown makes that part of the picture even more dismal:

"Miss Wigman presided over a table laid with silver and crystal, and she held us all spellbound with stories about her past life and harrowing tales about her suffering during the war. At that time I had no idea she'd once been an admirer of Adolf Hitler, even collaborating with the Nazis to keep her company, her school, and her career from extinction. What was strikingly clear was that she remained fiercely, proudly German. Her acidly scathing condemnation of the Allied firebombings of Dresden, which destroyed great architectural and cultural treasures as well as civilian dwellings, left us cringing with discomfort and felling guilty for our government's crimes against her people. Her government's crimes were not discussed." - p 303

By all means discuss the US bombings of Dresden & Hiroshima & Nagasaki as war crimes - but to leave out Germany's crimes is hardly serving the purpose of fairly condemning atrocities.

"Compared with the next night's event-twenty-eight-year-old Nam June Paik's hilarious, terrifying concert-our program was tame. With hammer and saw and much demented High-pitched screaming, Paik assaulted two upright pianos, destroying them before our eyes"


"It was John's necktie Paik was after, nothing more. He grabbed it with one hand and with the other cut it off just inches below John's throat." - p 308

I've always loved that story of Paik cutting off Cage's necktie. I've seen many videos of Paik's & 2 installations of his at the Wood St Gallery in Pittsburgh. The installations were truly fabulous. Remembering these now I just added Paik to my "Top 100 Artists" webpage ( ). I'm not close to having the projected 100 yet so I must be being pretty particular. When I met Cage at UMBC in 1979 I surreptitiously put stickers on his back &, possibly?, on his shoes. The stickers read: "For A Good Time Call (301)TESTES-3". TESTES-3 was the anonymously run "phone station" that 2 friends of mine & I had created. I never heard any evidence on our answering machine that Cage called it. If he left a msg it was undetectable to me. Too bad.

"Paik later told Earle: "I do homage John Cage. He great Zen master." Once again John's message seemed to have gone awry, and losing his necktie was only the first indignity he suffered that night. Paik proceeded to lather John's head with shampoo, and this time he included David Tudor in his unwelcome attentions. Neither man was amused. (This "composition" was a follow-up of an earlier work composed after meeting John at Darmstadt in 1958[)]" - p 309

I think this is where Brown shows her philosophical weakness. Cage's Zen Buddhism was, after all, an American interpretation - even if he did study w/ Suzuki. Paik, on the other hand, was born in Seoul in what was then Japanese occupied Korea where Buddhism was much more intrinsic to the cultural landscape than it's ever been in the US. According to Kasulis, Thomas P. (2003). Ch'an Spirituality. In: Buddhist Spirituality. Later China, Korea, Japan and the Modern World; edited by Takeuchi Yoshinori. (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass) as quoted on Wikipedia:

"The essence of enlightenment came to be identified with the interaction between masters and students. Whatever insight dhyana might bring, its verification was always interpersonal. In effect, enlightenment came to be understood not so much as an insight, but as a way of acting in the world with other people" -

It's my opinion that Paik was showing Cage & Tudor a version of Zen that in their seriousness they cdn't understand except by example. Consider this:

"In Chuang Tzu's own book of wisdom, he also derided the faith in rationality common to Chinese scholars. To emphasize his point, he devised a vehicle for assaulting the apparatus of logic - that being a "nonsense" story whose point could only be understood intuitively. There has yet to be found a more deadly weapon against pompous intellectualizing, as the Ch'an Buddhists later proved with the koan . Chuang Tzu also knew how quickly comedy could deflate, and he used it with consummate skill, again paving the way for the absurdist Zen masters. In fact, his dialogues often anticipate the Zen mondo , the exchanges between master and pupil that have comic/straight-man overtones." -

I think Paik was highly aware of what he was doing. I don't think that Cage's message had "gone awry", I think his message was lacking an understanding of the comedic side of Zen. What Brown perceived as an "indignity" was a misunderstanding: Paik sincerely pd homage to Cage w/ a gift of the comedic side of Zen that Cage was sometimes lacking.

"On November 28, 1960, the Living Theatre gave a cocktail party to celebrate their one-thousandth performance. Remy Charlip and I met at their quarters beneath Merce's studio on Sixth Avenue and Fourteenth Street, expecting to see him there, but no Merce, so we went upstairs to say hello only to discover an advanced class in progress, with Merce teaching it and Judy, Marilyn, and Viola all in class. No one had told Remy or me that Merce had resumed teaching. We were stunned. He saw us there watching. Afterward, between his class and Viola's, he might have come over to speak with us, but instead, clearly avoided us" - p 311

A part of the realism of this excellent bk is that everyone seems to be described warts & all. While Brown clearly has the highest respect for Cunningham as a dancer/choreographer & for many other qualities besides, she often presents him as a bad verbal communicator, a passive-aggressive of sorts. He must've been extremely frustrating to work w/ at times. Another example:

"If the company had no summer work, I knew I'd have to get some sort of a job. Only four days after I had asked Merce for a second time, I received a letter from Jeanette Schlottman requesting that I look over the galley proofs for the Connecticut College 1961 Summer School Bulletin. With no little amazement I discovered not only Merce's names listed as faculty but mine as well! I wrote Merce the following letter within hours of receiving Jeanette's:

"Merce dear,

"What can we do to develop an adult relationship of mutual trust and respect between you and your company (collectively and singly)? For eight years, more or less, you have had the love and devotion and loyalty of three of your present company, and yet we have failed to earn your trust and confidence. You continue to treat us as though we were dull-witted children, with whom you are playing some complicated game of secrets, and only you know the rules." - p 315

I wd find that completely maddening - esp if such a behavioral pattern continued after its being criticized by one of its victims.

"Also that day John decided that since people were not convinced that what he wrote was actually music, he would call his work "U-sik?"-pronounced with a slight Japanese accent" - p 317

NOW, I've been calling my work w/ sound "Usic" since no later than 1980 (see & hear: "Usic - 1": on my onesownthoughts YouTube channel here: - on the Internet Archive here: ). My 1st "booed usic" UNCERT was on January 24, 1984 (on the Internet Archive here: ). The idea of "Usic" was that it was based on the use of sounds & NOT on the muse (wch, after all, usually puts women in a passive role). "booed usic" developed this further as an alternative to "mood music". It's my observation that most people seem to want music to set a mood, whereas I want my USIC to provide significant new levels of stimulation. Having been using this terminology for roughly 42 yrs now this was the 1st time I've read about Cage's use of the term "U-sik". Sheesh.

Brown's frustration w/ Cunningham's unrewarding poor communication, she reaches the point of writing a resignation letter:

"Earle watched. Waited. Listened to my story. Read the letter. Then quietly advised me not to send it right away. "Give yourself time to think it over," he cautioned. Luckily, we were due at Louise and Edgard Varèse's for cocktails with Robert Craft. The following evening at Town Hall, Craft was to conduct an all-Varèse concert, including Equatorial (1933-34), Varèse's first composition with electronic instruments, and Earle was going to "play" one of the oscillators. Varèse was now seventy-seven years old, virtually ignored by the American musical establishment, so he was understandably excited and happy about this concert." - p 320

I love Varèse's music & I think that Robert Craft is a great & important conductor (contrary to what Pierre Boulez has claimed: ""Boulez wrote a letter attacking Craft's "sour mixture of incompetence and pedantry" and challenging the authorship of Stravinsky's writings, claiming what has subsequently been charged by others: that in the later years, they were not only written by Craft but not even reviewed by the aging master. Boulez ended by admonishing Craft to "stop imposing your insipid countenance on the features of a man who has nothing in common with your rancor, your impotence, and-in a word, your nothingness."" - p 9" - ) . Still, I can't help but think of the generally negative spin put on Varèse by the Henry Cowell biographer Joel Sachs:

""Varèse's International Composers' Guild (ICG) by now had completed three seasons of concerts of the newest music. While Henry may have been honored to be put on its International Advisory Board, Varèse ruled it with an iron fist. Henry almost immediately endangered their relationship by expressing reservations about Varèse's new ensemble piece Hyperprism." - pp 129-130" - [Alas, my full review isn't currently available on Goodreads anymore. Here's the link to my truncated review: . HOWEVER, the full review can be found online here: ]

""""It was the same old Varèse-Salzedo racket [as] in the last year of the Guild; only more crass and bold. Varèse is using the [PAAC] to exploit himself and is double crossing everybody that gets in his way. Salzedo has always been and is his Good Man Friday."" - p 229" - ibid

The exasperation w/ Cunnigham's ill-treatment of the dancers in the company continues:

"Then Remy listed a number of grievances he'd been harboring about Merce's treatment of him, to which Merce replied, "Martha treated her people much worse than that!" "Since when," asked Remy, "do we hold up Martha Graham as a model of propriety?"" - p 322

A general impression is gotten throughout this bk that the world of dance is drearily hierarchical & that even tho Cunningham's company took some steps to a greater democraticization that it was still Merce, the king, & everyone else the underling. It seems that dancers like Paul Taylor made the right decision to get out of the company fairly quickly. Musicians play w/ each other, choreographers such as Cunningham usually dictated every move of the individuals, what wd be called in music "through notation". I'm under the impression that choreographer Anna Halprin choreographed dancers by showing paths to liberation rather than being a dictator. As such, I find her generally more interesting.

The narrative moves on to the summer of 1961, w/ the company once again ensconced at Connecticut College:

"I could sit at my desk and observe John below at his, laboring in northern-exposure gloom, intensely immobile from seven in the morning until midnight. I called him Stone Buddha Pregnant Beaver-that is, immovable yet slaving ceaselessly at his task, which was to compose a new work for orchestra.

"Commissioned by the Montreal Festivals Society, the music would have its premier in a matter of weeks, and although he'd hired Toshi Ichiyanagi to help him, John still didn't know how he'd finish in time. Titled Atlas Eclipticalis, it involved chance operations and included placing transparent templates on an astronomical atlas and transcribing the positions of the stars. John, in desperation, employed dancers to toss pennies for him in order to speed up his laborious chance operations." - p 323

Brown gives a description of a new dance called Aeon wch premiered in Montréal but wasn't finished until its 2nd presentation on August 17, 1961, in Connecticut:

"Three men stood close behind one another, stage left, facing into a stage-right wing. Out of that wing I came running in a kind of Olympic vault start, scarf trailing. I leapt and landed sitting on Man #1's shoulder, fell face forward over Man #2's back, flipped my legs over and down onto Man #3's back as he caught me under my armpits and carried me offstage. At most a seven-second bit. The scarf, when well-behaved, was supposed to arc over the three of us in a momentarily glorious rainbow. It rarely worked; whether it did or didn't, my body screamed in protest. I was no gymnast, and the necessary speed meant I couldn't control the final impact of the somersault; even so, I loved doing it. It felt daring, and I was always rewarded with Bob's expressed delight when the scarf made its arching rainbow." - p 326

Then came the critics:

"How is it possible that what my body/mind knew was there in Merce's work could have gone unseen, unexperienced, unfelt, unacknowledged by the witnesses on the aisle? How much this can be blamed on the music, I can't say. But one dance critic, Jill Johnston-not blinded by the sound-did see, and her wonderfully perceptive review in The Village Voice certainly made up for the deprecating censure of the others."


"Mr. Cunningham presented a new dance, <Aeon>, almost 50 minutes long, to a score by John Cage and with decor by Robert Rauschenberg. Aeon is a dance of great scale. It moves through so much, in range of quality, physical force, the human condition-that the whole thing is staggering to think of in retrospect. Human events: the activity of dancers on a proscenium stage. Other human events: the ways people communicate with each other, or speak for themselves. Exterior events: explosions, clouds, lights, a machine, sounds. And always the dancing, the superb dancing." - p 332

I have a bk by Jill Johnston called "Marmalade Me" (1971) that I remember reading pre-2007 (when I started writing Goodreads reviews) & liking very much. Given that almost all the essays in it appeared in The Village Voice between 1960 & 1970 I looked in the bk to see if I cd find the article entitled "Dance: Cunningham in Connecticut" (September 7, 1961). Alas, I didn't find. Even looking thru the table of contents intrigued me, tho, & reminded me that if I ever find another bk of hers I shd add it to my piles of hundreds or thousands of bks I intend to read before I croak.

"My one diversion that spring-early summer-auditing Bob Dunn's composition classes-culminated in the now historic "A Concert of Dance" at the Judson Church on Friday, July 6, which marked the birth of Judson Dance Theater." - p 350

I have another bk called "Democracy's Body - Judson Dance Theater 1962-1964" by Sally Banes, one that I haven't read. I decided to look in the bk for Bane's version of the history. The Introduction begins thusly:

"In the summer of 1962, a group of young choreographers decided to present a concert of works they had made for Robert Dunn's choreography class, taught from 1960 through 1962 at Merce Cunningham's studio in the Living Theater building. These choreographers were not all dancers by training; their numbers included visual artists and musicians. Dunn himself had studied music theory with John Cage, the avant-garde composer and Cunningham's collaborator, at the New School for Social Research.

"In looking for a place to show their experimental work in a professional concert format, the group found a welcome at Judson Memorial Church, a liberal Protestant congregation that was housed on the south end of Washington Square in Greenwich Village. There the ministry and parishioners had long been active in reform politics, civil rights, and arts activities. Already the site of Happenings, the Judson Poets' Theater, film screenings, and the Judson Gallery, where exhibitions of Pop Art and political art were held, the Judson Church soon also became the center of avant-garde dance in the city.

"A Concert of Dance #1 was open to the public free of charge. It lasted for several hours, with twenty-three dances on the program by fourteen choreographers. This concert, given on 6 July, 1962, proved to be the beginning of a historic process that changed the shape of dance history. It was the seedbed for post-modern dance, the first avant-garde movement in dance theater since the modern dance of the 1930s and 1940s." - p xi, "Democracy's Body"

That's exciting.. but I wonder how proveable such claims as "the first avant-garde movement in dance theater since the modern dance of the 1930s and 1940s" can be - after all, does the author really claim to know about everything happening in dance all over the world during that time? In other words, this is another New Yorker tooting their horn, fairly sure that no contradiction will be as publicized as much their own claim. NYC has alot going on but it's not the whole world. Sheesh, it's not even all of the us@.

One of the only people that Brown writes about that she clearly doesn't like is Yoko Ono:

[(]"Yoko fancied herself an avant-garde artist, but her work seemed to me derivative, opportunistic, and trivial. She once looked me in the eye and said matter-of-factly, "I always get what I want." No doubt!)" - p 361

I can understand being critical of Ono but I love her bk "Grapefruit" & the 1st 2 "Unfinished Music" records & "Fly" & other things. I can't ultimately write her off even if she did rip off LaMonte Young, etc..

Writing about another dance:

"Violence of a different sort-the clandestine sort that lurks in darkness, inscrutable, furtive, and menacing-permeates Winterbranch."


"The dance begins in silence and total darkness, with a just barely barely perceptible "thing" wriggling its way across the floor from upstage left to upstage right. "The chance play of light obscures it, stretches it into a long dark shadow, accents the sharp staccato changes of its shape." A mysterious tension is created and continues to build. Much of the action that follows is executed in excrutiating slow motion. One-third of the way into the dance, the viewer-now accustomed to the silence-is suddenly assaulted by the first of La Monte Young's screeching, nearly intolerable sounds. The tension now, for both dancers and viewers, is palpable." - p 372

& of all the Cunningham dances I've witnessed in movies Winterbranch is one of the ones that's stuck w/ me the most. The description of the ""thing" wriggling its way across the floor" reminds me a little of the more comical "Glow Worm" scene in my feature-length 16mm film called "The "Official" John Lennon's Erection as Blocking Our View Homage & Cheese Sandwich" (1990-1995) ( ).

Chapter 24 is called "World Tour / Part I":

"At five o'clock on the evening of Wednesday, June 3, 1964, eighteen people, most limp with exhaustion from a myriad of last-minute preparations, gathered in New York's East Side Air Terminal: Ten dancers: Merce Cunningham, Carolyn Brown, Viola Farber, Barbara Lloyd, Sandra Neels, Shareen Blair, Deborah Hay, Steve Paxton, Bill Davis, Albert Reid. Two musicians: John Cage and David Tudor. Two stage technicians: Robert Rauschenberg and Alex Hay. Two administrators: Lewis Lloyd and David Vaughan. And along for the ride, the Lloyd's baby son, Benjamin, and his English nanny, Mrs. Gray. There were fifty-one pieces of luggage weighing over one ton; we were twelve hundred pounds overweight." - p 375

Amazing. To even attempt such a tour w/ such a large group of people presenting work of such profound originality & difficulty represents an incredible optimism in the face of a logistical nightmare of the 1st order. The most ambitious tour I ever attempted was w/ 5 people going slightly into CacaNada & then halfway across the US & turning around, taking a mnth: . We lost money but at least there were 5 of us to lose it. I had about 4/5ths of my money stolen by the CacaNadian customs before the tour had barely gotten started.

"Despite political machinations and critical brouhaha, the International Grand Prize in Painting went to an American for the first time ever, and it was Bob! (Alexander Calder had won for sculpture in 1952.) The press clamored for Rauschenberg interviews, Rauschenberg photo opportunities. Young Italian painters, passionately in his favor, hoisted Bob on their shoulders and ran him around Piazza San Marco, singing and cheering. Merce and John were left on the sidelines, their healthy egos chafing. How, despite their sincere admiration for Bob's work, could they not help feeling some resentment and envy? And so it was, I believe, that in this city, at this time, seeds of discontent were sown between John, Merce, and Bob, through no fault of anyone. Great success so often carries with it risk of disrupted friendships." - pp 383-384

& that was a fairly gentle way for Brown to describe it.

"John, too, lost his cool, not to mention his Zen non-attachment. Merce's withdrawal into a sullen, unapproachable state made John utterly miserable, desperate to remedy the situation, and his passionate protectiveness of Merce caused him to lash out at Bob: "There's room for only one star in this company!" The problem was not really stars, but egos. Bruised ones. Meanwhile, Bob, enthralled by his own project, seemed oblivious to the tensions mounting daily." - p 407

"In Mannheim, we performed in Mies van der Rohe's Nationaltheater. Great architecture it may have been, but the stage floor-with protruding nails, loose tacks, broken staples, and splinters-threatened to tear our bare feet to shreds. The stagehands offered no assistance until after we'd spent a good part of our rehearsal time on our hands and knees trying to rid the stage of debirs; only then did they produce a vacuum cleaner." - p 388

I can re-.. I was part of a festival in a Barcelona museum in 2004. I'd had advance communication w/ the guy who was supposedly coordinating the logistics. He was so lazy he probably had to get his girlfriend to wipe his ass for him. The festival featured a live translator whose job it was to translate the English spoken by the performers into Spanish for the audience, who wore headsets. I informed the coordinator in advance by email that my English wd be too difficult for the translator in real time so I provided him w/ a copy of my text & asked him to pass it along to the translator. When it came time for my 'performance', the translator sd "I can't translate this in real time! I should've gotten a copy of the text so I could've translated it in advance!" The coordinator had been so lazy & incompetent that he hadn't even taken the effort to forward my text by email to the translator - something that wd've only taken him a few seconds to do.

On the day of my 'performance' the other person on the bill & I wanted to do a soundcheck but there were no soundpeople in evidence to help. The mixer was set up but we didn't even have the cords we needed. Finally, somehow I managed to get 2 soundguys to come & I overcame the language barrier & gesturally explained what cords I needed. They left & eventually came back w/ the cords. & left again. Exasperated by this pattern of neglect, I eventually resorted to being the soundman for my co-performer so he cd do a quick run-thru of his performance. Apparently, the idea of a soundcheck was beyond the scope of the TWO 'professional' museum soundmen.

"Ostrava, the "Pittsburgh of Czechoslovakia," may have been a coal-mining town, but it had a handsome old theater (sadly in need of repair) just across the street from a good hotel that had private baths with hot water, an elevator that worked, and a decent restaurant-everything to make weary dancers happy. But Ostrava was a bleak place for those living there. There was no electricity in the stores in the daytime-in any case, there was next-to-nothing to buy, not even magazines. Our dresser in the theater marveled at the quality of our Kleenex and our makeup." - p 414

Stories about economic conditions in Soviet countries are legion. One friend of mine who went to Poland in the 1980s told me about long food lines stretching outside the stores of people trying to get very sparse resources. I was in Berlin in 1994 & a German told me that when East Germany existed that when you had a baby you'd apply for a car b/c it wd take 20 yrs to get it - the idea being to get the car for when yr baby wd grow to an adult. I was in Hungary for a Neoist festival in 1997, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, & I asked a Hungarian musician acquaintance what conditions were like. He sd that now there were stores well-stocked w/ goods but that most people still cdn't afford to buy them. Then he laughed.

"The Cunningham company and the Pittsburgh Symphony, under the direction of William Steinberg, were the only American groups to perform in the 1964 Warsaw Autumn Festival. Our concert was sold out well in advance. Richard, the official translator, told Merce that we were well received by the official Warsaw press and that the critic in the official Communist paper wrote that Merce's art was "for the people" and therefore for all Poland. By government decree, it would seem." - p 416

Thusly flying in the face of Socialist Realism. The Warsaw Autumn Festival being, as far as I can tell, a somewhat substantial festival open to new music that was definitely NOT Socialist Realism - meaning, in the case of music, not appealing to the LCD (Lowest Common Denominator) w/ reworkings of folk music & simple displays of tonal virtuosity.

"Nothing prepared me for the onslaught to the senses that is India: sounds smells, colors; its roiling sea of humanity; the nobility and degradation of poverty impugning Victorian British decorum and the riches of the Raj; the sacred cows nonchalantly perambulating alleyways while prostitutes languished in cages." - p 422

I have to admit that the prostitutes languishing in cages wd be enuf to disturb me to the point of despair.

"There was no fee paid for our two performances in Chandigarh. The city was on our itinerary because the Sarabhais thought John would wish to see Le Corbusier's city, designed in 1950 to be the new capital for the Punjab. The sponsors agreed to pay for travel and accomodations, but of course the promised charter bus had not materialized and the company ended up paying for the hotel." - p 432

Ha ha! When in doubt, rip-off the artist & keep the money for yrself - esp when the victim isn't likely to return or have any official clout.

"As we were boarding our (this time) chartered return bus, Gurnam Singh Tir, who worked for the Tagore Theatre, apologized to John for all the confusion and bad feeling that had surrounded the performances in Chandigarh, saying finally: "If we'd known how good you were, we wouldn't have treated you so badly."" - p 433

"Meanwhile, John was facing serious money problems. In February, his mother suffered a stroke and was paralyzed on her right side. He told me that he had just begun to feel creative after recovering from the ordeal of the world tour, but after his mother was stricken, all his time and energy were spent worrying about her and raising or earning money. The nursing home he found cost forty-two dollars a day. That's all he could think or talk about other than a Jaguar sports car that Jasper had given him, which made him ecstatically happy." - p 454

In 1965, $42 = $396.95 in 2022 - about what I made in a wk before I retired. It seems to me that these days one wd be 'lucky' to find a nursing home for that 'cheap'. Maybe I'm being overly cynical. Otherwise, it's hard for me to imagine Cage driving a Jaguar! If one were a split personality wd it be possible to get a custom-made vehicle that's a Rolls Royce split down the middle w/ the other half being a chopped Harley?

Cage's "Variations V" is a famous piece b/c of the technological innovations involved in its realization. Then again, there was Theremin's Terpsitone wch functioned similarly & was invented no later than 1936, thusly significantly preceeding Cage & co.

"John had posed this question: is there some means by which dancers' movements can activate sound? With David Tudor and others researching the question, he found some answers from Robert Moog, who created the Moog synthesizer, and Bill Klüver, a creative electrical engineer doing research at Bell Laboratories in New Jersey. The final concept with which Merce had to deal involved twelve four-foot-tall antennae placed around the stage. In order to trigger the sound , the dancers had to weave in, out, and around them, the interaction operating much like a theremin. Klüver's contribution consisted of "seeing eye" light-beam devices that responded to the shadows made when dancers crossed in front of them, thus activating sounds from radios, tape machines, etc. The big question, of course, was, would their devices work? The simple answer to that question turned out to be NO!" - p 458

Ha ha! As a person who formerly made a living an an A/V technician for museums I can personally testify that one of main things that goes w/ technology, esp computers, is that it's likely to malfunction or not work 'as advertised'. Even w/ that knowledge in mind, it's entertaining to read about this famous performance being dysfunctional.

The list of people whose work I'm interested in goes on & on:

"In October, I'd received an invitation from Pierre Mercure to be the featured dancer in Toi (Loving), an experimental one-hour opera for television by Canadian composer Murray Shafer" - p 462

I'm a little confused by the translation of Toi as "Loving" considering that it's just the more personal form of "You".

R. Murray Schafer, most famous to me bc/ he wrote the bk "The Tuning of the World - Toward a Theory of Soundscape Design" (1977). I was interested in him until I heard him give a talk to a small group of people in Washington DC in the 1980s. Once he revealed how astonishingly HUGE his CacaNadian grant funding was for his pieces it was hard for me to even remotely respect him anymore. Funding like his wd be enuf to feed all the residents of a small city for a wk or more. I have much more respect for Oldenburg's choice to make a museum exhibit out of the trash in the museum's vicinity.

"How did Toi ultimately turn out? I don't know. Never saw it. Perhaps it was awful. Perhaps it was wonderful." - p 464

Ha ha! I've been on TV many times & I don't think I've ever seen the vast majority of those appearances. I'd love to see someone other than myself string together all my TV appearances into one movie. BalTimOre (1982), New York City (1988), Canada (1992), München (1994), Hungary (1997), Kuala Lumpur (2000), Australia (2000), Philadelphia (2000), Barcelona (2004).. I'm sure there're plenty more instances that I'm not remembering. There're MANY cable-TV shows that I've had work on that I've seen at least fragments of. Here's an instance of one of those: "Film Kitchen TV": . I wonder how many people think about that? About people who're on TV who don't watch TV or, at least, don't even witness the shows they're in?

"On September 29, 1965, The National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. At the signing ceremony, President Johnson declared, "Art is a nation's most precious heritage, for it is in our works of art that we reveal ourselves, and to others, the inner vision that guides us as a nation. And where there is no vision, the people perish." In February 1966, the National Council on the Arts awarded grants to choreographers. José Limon received $23,000; Anna Sokolow, $10,000; Antony Tudor, $10,000; Alvin Ailey, Merce Cunningham, Alwin Nikolais, and Paul Ratlor $5,000 each. But what took everyone's breath was the $181,000 awarded to the Martha Graham Dance Company-more than double the combined sum of all the other grants to choreographers and dance companies." - p 466

Wow. $181,000 in 1966 = $744,277.50 in 2022 ( ). Martha Graham must've really been seen as a safe bet, no scandal likely. Was it pieces like "Appalachian Spring" that did the trick? You know, the kind of thing that wd pass the Socialist Realism muster as much as it did the Americana one? Whatever the case, I refuse to believe that Graham's choreography & dancing deserved so much more than all the other contenders. This was the beginning of NEA (National Endowment for the Arts) grants. The end came about thusly:

"The "NEA Four", Karen Finley, Tim Miller, John Fleck, and Holly Hughes, were performance artists whose proposed grants from the United States government's National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) were vetoed by John Frohnmayer in June 1990. Grants were overtly vetoed on the basis of subject matter after the artists had successfully passed through a peer review process. John Fleck was vetoed for a performance comedy with a toilet prop. The artists won their case in court in 1993 and were awarded amounts equal to the grant money in question, though the case would make its way to the United States Supreme Court in National Endowment for the Arts v. Finley, which ruled in favour of the NEA's decision making process. In response, the NEA, under pressure from Congress, stopped funding individual artists." -

Who exactly are these alleged "peers"?! Can you imagine Leonardo DaVinci begging for money & being 'peer-reviewed' by some mediocre people who just happened to be painters too? The world's full of hacks but DaVincis are rare. They generally have no peers.

To some people the above 4 performance artists are probably heroes for their daring work. But they're the ones who were art-world enuf to get the money. Can you imagine people like myself (tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE) or G.G.Allin or Joe Coleman getting NEA grants? We wd've been weeded out before any scandal ensued - although I doubt that any of those 3 named wd've even bothered - no matter how financially desperate we were.

"Klaus Wildenhahn arrived from Germany with a copy of his completed Cage documentary." - p 481

Well, well, well.. I've never heard of it, this mention got me interested, I didn't find a version of it for sale online so I tried to watch it on Vimeo where I discovered that it now costs a minimum of $9 to watch things. This surprised me given that I have quite alot on Vimeo of my own work & I don't have a pd membership b/c when I started using Vimeo it was free w/ an upload limit of something like 500MB a wk. When they started charging to upload I stopped uploading b/c I was too broke to be spending money on something that'd been free. Then just trying to find out if I cd even watch my own videos there now caused my computer to freeze for about 20 minutes or so while I went off to do something else. So much for trying to check out Wildenhahn's doc.

"Merce had won the gold star for choreography at the Paris International Dance Festival. David Vaughan went to Paris to accept the award on Merce's behalf. When he arrived, he was prevented from receiving it and informed that someone from the American Embassy would accept it. The gold star would then be sent to Washington, and from there it would be sent to Merce, which indeed it was. The package arrived in the mail, forty cents postage due." - p 484

That's hilarious. One might think that if the award was so important that someone from the Embassy wd have to receive it & route it thru government channels that they wd take the trouble to then either deliver it in person via a courier OR at least pay the proper postage - something that I'm sure even a low-level government employee wd be capable of. Therefore, it strikes me as a deliberate gesture of contempt to send it postage-due.

Brown's ongoing disgust w/ dysfunctional technology continues:

"The tour culminated with TV Dinner-Homage to E.A.T (Food for Thought) at the 92nd Street Y on February 25. It was an unmitigated disaster. New York City was presented with a most unorthodox, not to say maddening, performance, where once again technology failed and enraged the audience." - p 487

& then there's the racism:

"In Rock Hill, South Carolina, our rented cars were vandalized. Tires slashed. One window smashed to bits. Random destruction or racial prejudice? Gus Solomons jr., an MIT graduate from a middle-class Boston family, had never been to the South. Traveling there for the first time as the lone black man in an otherwise all-white company had to be fraught with anxiety and pain, but he never spoke of it to us. He'd never seen "Whites Only" restrooms, segregated restaurants; never really experienced blatant racial discrimination, although when he had joined us in Chicago the previous year, the hotel management was less than cordial until Lew arrived to help check him in.

"Nineteen sixty-seven in the United States was a time of profound unrest. An unpopular war in Vietnam, now two years old, brought hundreds of thousands into the streets of New York City to protest. College campuses were in turmoil. In the summer of 1967, known as "the hot summer," race riots erupted in major cities all across the United States." - p 490

& that was only 55 yrs ago - in my lifetime.

Brown continues to complain about the loudness & noisiness of much of the music:

"John's score, especially composed for this evening, was orchestrated for viola, tam-tam (a gong), radio, and three automobiles. An array of contact microphones were hooked up to just about everything including the automobiles' windshield wipers, doors, and engines. I described it for Earle:

"It was one hour of sheer torture. I'm not exaggerating. A loud speaker had been placed in a tree, directed toward the left side of the stage and the volume was deafening. It made me nauseous, and actually HURT my ears. I kept trying to turn my head to get out of direct range but couldn't." - p 492

Cage, of course, was a pioneer of noise music preceeded mainly by Luigi Russolo 2 generations before. I, personally, prefer what I call Conceptual Loudness - in other words, ideas that people find so challenging that they react to them as if they're physically loud when they're not. Physical loudness can actually harm one's hearing so I avoid it & can understand Brown's repulsion. That sd, I find the description of Cage's music in this instance to be extremely exciting. I don't know the piece but the instrumentation is special enuf to get my attn. Such a piece is a major precursor of what came to be known as the Noise Music that came to prominence in the 1980s & that persists to this day. I cd be sd to've been a Noise Musician from roughly 1975 to 1986 w/ such pieces as "Accumulation" (1980) an excerpt from wch can be heard as the soundtrack for my "Subtitles (16mm version)" here: .

Brown's intense dislike of the Noise Music was hardly confined to her. Here's a relevant excerpt from my review of Benjamin Piekut's "Experimentalism Otherwise - The New York Avant-Garde and Its Limits":

"the 1st chapter in "Experimentalism Otherwise" is entitled "When Orchestras Attack! John Cage Meets the New York Philharmonic wch focuses nicely on deepening the historic record of the New York Philharmonic's negative response to performing Cage's "Atlas Eclipticalis" on February 9, 1964. It's often the case that when I'm reading a music-related bk I also listen to relevant recordings & read their liner notes. That was the case here insofar as I was listening to the 3 disc collection called "Music from the Tudorfest - San Francisco Tape Music Center 1964" from the liner notes in wch it's written that:

"[San Francisco Chronicle's Alfred] "Frankenstein's insightful comments are especially noteworthy if one considers the notorious performances of Atlas Eclipticalis (also played simultaneously with Winter Music in its electronic version) by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center two months earlier as part of a series of concerts titled "The Avant-Garde." In contrast to the performances at the Tape Music Center, the reception of the same work was far from favorable. As reported by Calvin Tomkins, shortly after the first amplifed sounds emitted from the loudspeakers, audience members muttered angrily and left their seats; roughly half of the audience had left the hall by the time the work ended. Taking his bows after the work's second performance Cage heard what he first thought was "the sound of escaping air," which he quickly realized was hissing by members of the orchestra. During the third performance some of the musicians whistled into their contact microphones, played scales, and purportedly smashed electronic equipment." - " - truncated review:

Audiences leave in droves too when they object to content or find it somehow 'too much'. Roughly half the audience left during my presentation at the CCCB (Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona) on Friday, April 2, 2004, during the "Influencers" festival. Even one of the coorganizers of it tried to convince me to stop saying that I'd been going on for too long when I was still well-under the designated event length time. The festival was themed around hactivism &/or pranking. The audience particularly objected to my collaborative fake porn film (made w/ Dick Hertz) called "Balling Tim Ore is Best" that'd been originally snuck into a peep show & surreptitiously run for 2 wks. Our purpose was 100% subversive. While much of the film is sexually explicit I'd call it Conceptually Loud more than anything else. My participation in Influencers can be witnessed on Vimeo broken into 4 pts. Since I can't currently access Vimeo I'm not sure wch part contains "Balling Tim Ore is Best" but it's probably pt 3: . A more detailed description of this can be found on my "Mere Outline" website here: (currently entry 341 but that's susceptible to change) .

"At the University of Illinois, we danced in the vast new Assembly Hall, but compared to John's riotous Musicircus in the stock pavilion the following evening, our performance was a tame affair. Musicircus offered a mélange of activities including compositions by twenty-five composers with nearly twice that number of musicians to perform them; a jazz band; a few dancers; and some films and projections. There was no overall score, no directives other than to perform whatever one wished. Creative anarchy!" - p 496

Such an event appeals to me enormously & I'm sure Cage organized it at a scale that wd still be beyond most people today, myself included. About the closest I ever came to attending such an event was another Cage one at the Strathmore Hall Arts Center in Rockville, MD, on May 5,1989.

"In 1968 the company had thirty weeks of employment! With the exception on the world tour, we'd never had so much work, and yet the financial condition of the company hovered, as ever, on the brink of disaster. Still it could be claimed that we were a bona fide professional dance company. For the first time ever, we dancers were given a full year's AGMA contract-from September 1968 through August 1969, although we didn't acually sign the contract until January 1969." - p 498

I imagine that their financial instability had to be at least a little rooted in a habitual overstretching of resources thru increasing ambition that was itself rooted in being uneasily accustomed to doing as much as possible w/ as little as possible.

"Walkaround's title is computer jargon and refers to the "walkaround time"-oh so long ago, before high-speed computers blanketed the world-when computer programmers walked about while waiting for their giant room-sized computers to complete their work." - p 503

That's an interesting concept for a dance. How about Waiting in line for ice-cream in Poland? I'm not being sarcastic.

"While jogging in place at a steady pace, Merce stripped off one set of tights and shirt, and then donned another-all without losing a single beat. Several times this required him to hop on one foot many times while removing the leg of his tights or putting one on, but never did he interrupt his constant rhythm. An astonishing feat demanding hours of practice! Anyone who has ever tried to remove a pair of tights or, even worse, pull a pair of tights onto a sweaty body, let along run in place at an even pace at the same time, will appreciate the tour de force this represents." - p 505

I can imagine & am duly impressed.

"[Boulder Colorado-6/22/68] Dancing yesterday was work. No joy, no physical pleasure, no involvement of spirit. An awful thing to have to do. Felt curiously old, passé, dispirited. There must be newness, discovery, growth or it must stop.

"[Boulder Colorado-6/28/68] The performance on the 25th was uninspired on my part. Again, doing my "job" but without much real pleasure." - p 510

"[Rio-8/3/68] I am profoundly saddened by my dancing life. It's been happening gradually, ever since Bob and Viola left the company. It's reached alarming proportions of discontent this week in Rio. . . . We've become a commercial road company, repeating, repeating, repeating. The zest for, the belief in, the excitement for creativity is gone. Sometimes it's a dull ache I feel. Sometimes a screaming pain of protest." - pp 510-511

What cd've been an amazing time, performing in places that one has never been to before, has turned into practically the definition of just going thru the motions. Are all the dances through-notated, i.e.: exactingly choreographed w/ no rm for dance innovation?

"[3/11/70] The "work" continues to be tiresome, irksome, dreary, repetitious, boring and frustrating. I struggle for air, for light, for wisdom, for humor, for freedom, for self-determination. Above all, yes-self-determination.

"[3/13/70] Tonight I danced locked up in a cold hard lonely fury. Danced? Hardly. . . . My happiest times, dancing-be it in rehearsal or performance are those times when the dance is me and I am the dance-inseperable, one thing. The music plays freely with the time, even the space, at the whim of the dial and knob turners. The lights play freely-making beautiful sculpture of us, probably even making us look beautiful-at the whim of the lighting designer. And we-trained in a cloistered hall to do our technical feats-are put in the middle of all this freedom and told to perform like the good little trained beasts that we are." - p 542

Seems like hell to me - & yet when I've tried to work w/ dancers & encouraged the same freedoms that the musicians & cameraperson had the dancers seemed to be the ones who just cdn't get it.

Much of the bk mentions Cage trying to get government funding for touring & failing but, finally, there's evidence that he & Cunningham refused to let governments order them around:

"In 1968 Brazil was governed by a "soft" military dictatorship and Lew, upon arrival in Rio, was informed that unless the company provided the "police censors" with a special preview on the afternoon of the opening, we could not perform. John and Merce categorically refused." - p 514

"The company's refusal to submit its programs to the censors sparked some challenging questions about artistic freedom. John's belief in anarchy, i.e., Thoreau's "The best government is no government at all," and Merce's belief that art transcends politics with its power to open/change people's minds, was clearly articulated by them." - p 515

"Of course, there was a certain irony in all this: for years, with the single exception of the five thousand dollars for travel expenses to Mexico City, no State Department financial aid had ever been given. Then came the startling announcement from John that the company was not going to accept U.S. government money. It wasn't? That statement must have given Lew apoplexy!" - p 515

I don't envy Lewis Lloyd, the administrator, his job. He had to handle the logistics, make sure that pople got their money, & navigate the politics of the countries visited as well as the philosophies & idiosyncracies of the creative people in the company, who vastly our-numbered him. Here's a description of him going to get their pay:

"[When] I went to Creole Petroleum to pick up our check the building was guarded by an armored personnel carrier, containing the company's private security forces. The entrance was guarded by men with submachine guns at the ready. As I went up in the elevator I noticed that as the door opened on each floor, a uniformed man holding a submachine gun stood facing us. It was a very depressing business." - p 519

Cage was, of course, absolutely 'ahead of his time'. The following bit about gender is something that seems like it's from 2020 instead of the late 1960s.

"["]There are not just males and females, there are 80 kinds of males and 175 kinds of females."

"This was in 1968, remember, not 1998." - p 520

Cage was presumably quoting something he'd read or I doubt that he wd've been so number-specific. Personally, I'd rather go back to male, female, & intersex w/ the definitions just referring to specific physical characteristics & w/o there having to be any particular role-playing associated w/ any of them.

"The film, called Assemblage, was a genuinely collaborative effort." - p 522

Another movie described that I become interested in seeing. I didn't find a copy of it for sale online, there's a short excerpt on Vimeo - once again, something that one has to pay for.

Earle Brown having moved on from his marriage to Carolyn then results in her doing the same.

"My pleasure was tripled by Jim Klosty's arrival in San Francisco just one day after the company's. Until Jim graduated from New York University with an MFA in theater he had been safe from the draft, but upon graduation his draft status instantly changed to 1A. Opposing the Vietnam War but not claiming to be a conscientious objector, he had made the decision to go to jail before he would agree to serve in Vietnam." - p 524

The fact that he was even being forced into deciding between a rock & a hard place shows what insanity the country was going thru.

"It was a night to remember. Two unions-the electricians' union and the musicians' union-haggled about who had jurisdiction over sounds issuing from the orchestra pit of the opera house when the music used electronic instruments as well as conventional acoustic ones. When his last-minute attempts to negotiate with the unions failed, Harvey Lichtenstein made the decision to go ahead without any music. For almost any other dance company in the world at that time, this would have been an insurmountable problem. For the dancers it posed no difficulty at all, but for the musicians this union struggle could have resulted in a very serious problem indeed, since so much of the company's music involved the wedding of conventional instruments and electronic ones, and, as Gordon Mumma said, "a decision had to be made that will allow us to practice our art."" - p 530

Not surprisingly, from my POV, the unions were acting like idiots. They cd've at least just agreed to flip a coin to see who wd win their debate. At any rate, it's this sort of problem that shd never be tolerated when it intrudes on creativity. The most creative creativity is always operating outside the bounds of the petty imaginationless worlds of the people around them. Enabling the imaginationless people to impinge on & inhibit this is intolerable.

"Patrick O'Connor, admittedly my biggest fan in all the world, had no regrets about the lack of music: "I'll just say I got my wish: I got to see the Cunningham Company dance in silence, and if that's always been your wish this is your chance. Last night, sans music, the Cunningham company proved that it is probably the best assembly of dancers in the world, that he's a choreographer of genius and Carolyn Brown is worth a trip to Brooklyn, if not around the world . . ." - p 531

The unions, sensibly, resolved their dispute so the sound was there for subsequent performances.

"Canfield had no musical score. The composition "In Memorium Nikola Tesla, Cosmic Engineer" by Pauline Oliveros consisted of three pages of instructions for the musicians. Tesla once-so legend goes-adjusted an oscillator to the resonance of his studio and nearly brought the building down. In Canfield, the musicians' ultimate task was to discover the resonant frequency of the building in which the dance was performed but not to go so far as to bring the building down. (A most unlikely possibility.)" - p 531

There's a 10CD set called "Music for Merce 1952-2009" wch my local library has a copy of & wch I made a copy from - &, waddyaknow? It has Oliveros's piece on it on disc 3.

"Less than twenty-four hours after our final BAM performance, we were boarding an Alitalia flight to Rome. Standing in the queue, waiting to pass through security control, I became aware of a tall curly-haired guy I hadn't remembered ever seeing before, but who seemed to be part of the Cunningham entourage, which on this trip included Judith Blinken, my mother, and Jim Klosty. "Who is he?" I asked, sotto voce, of the person standing next to me. "Charlie Atlas, the new production assistant," I was told. Heaven knows, we needed one."


"What he had always wanted to do was to make his own films, and that desire would be fulfilled when he began filming Merce's dances two years later, the beginning of an artistically successful film career." - p 533

& I have 4 of Atlas's Cunningham documentaries in my aRCHIVE: "Suite for Five", "Summerspace: A Lyric Dance", "Interscape", & "Merce Cunningham: A Lifetime of Dance". These are the documentaries that allow thoroughness & detail to be presented.

"In October, Merce's book Changes: Notes on Choreography was published by Something Else Press." - p 534

Dick Higgins's Something Else Press is possibly my favorite press. There was a time when I cd buy their publications fairly easily & cheaply in BalTimOre. How that happened I don't know. Recently, "A Something Else Reader" has been published post-mortem of the actual press itself & I got a copy. Anyway, I looked for Changes: Notes on Choreography for sale online & found the cheapest copy to be affordable b/c it's been reprinted. Alas, the original Something Else edition is now at collector's prices. I bought the cheap copy.

Brown eventually does her own choreography.

"In our first conversation," [Antony] "Tudor had asked what music I was considering. At the first mention of Satie he said something like "too easy" or "too au courant," so I chose Elgar's Serenade for Strings in E Minor, which met with his approval." - p 543

After all those yrs of dancing simultaneous w/ music by avant-garde composers who she might've liked personally but whose music she sometimes detested, Brown chooses a tonal piece by a composer I'm inclined to say is too schmaltzy! I wonder if her Cunningham company composers & musicians were appalled!

"For us, the commotion was exciting, even fun, but for Paul Taylor, who was in the audince that night, it was alarming. He came backstage looking extremely apprehensive. His company was to open a two-week engagement in the same theater beginning the following evening. Two years earlier, during the 1968 riots, students took over the theater at the end of Paul's second performance. They asked him to give free performances for them, but he refused. (Read his book, <Private Domain>, for a play-by-play.) Jean-Louis Barrault-director of the Théatre de France at that time-joined the students' cultural revolution and was subsequently fired by the government. A leader of the student takeover, Jean-Jaques Lebel (son of Robert Lebel, the Marcel Duchamp scholar), was a neo-Dadaist credited with being the initiator of the French Happening. Judith and Julian Beck, with their Living Theatre group, also joined the students occupying the theater in 1968. Paris was a quasi-war zone, with vast demonstrations, homemade bombs exploding helter-skelter, and thousands of gendarmes patrolling the streets. Anarchists and workers joined the students. Red Communist and black anarchist flags waved from the theater's rooftop. Inside, the theater was trashed. Miraculously, no one was killed." - pp 546-547

As an anarchist I try to imagine what I might have done under such circumstances. On the one hand it seems so promising, so exhilirating, on the other, mobs are always a bad scene from my POV. People feel empowered AND devoid of personal responsibility. Hence they can be moved to act in ways that might superficially seem to serve the political goals they purport to represent when, in actuality, it's just more assholism.

"Soon we were table-hopping, greeting the many Paris friends-both French and American expatriates like the novelist Harry Mathews-we'd made over the years." - pp 449-450

It's strange for me to read a person's autobiography in wch so many people are mentioned that're known to me thru their creative work. I suppose that's partially what makes this bk so eminently publishable, the fact that many people will know of who's being referred to - &, yet, very few people I know here in Pittsburgh wd have any idea who many or most of the people referenced in this bk are. Harry Mathews, e.g., whose work I like very much - do I know anyone else in PGH who's read anything by him?! Probably not.

"On the way out he remarked that Gordon Mumma hates him. Then he said, "I think Earle hates me, too." I said I truly did not think so, that I didn't think Earle hated anyone. "Well," says John, "he had to deny me. So did David Tudor. The only one who didn't was Christian [Wolff]." Jim said that Gordon didn't hate him. . . . Another oddity-he did say he hated what Gordon and David T. are doing with electronics. "It's not musical composition. David is not a composer." And then he said, "But I'll use what they've discovered."" - pp 557-558

That's about as juicy as avant-garde gossip gets. John Cage being paranoid, John Cage being catty, John Cage being a user. He must've really been having a bad day. I have to admit, tho, I think David Tudor was a mind-bogglingly great performer but of less interest as a composer. As such, I almost agree w/ Cage in that regard - but not quite. As for Cage's relationships w/ these folks? As stated before by Brown, there must've been chafed egos. It wdn't be too surprising if Cage's colleagues got tired of being so constantly associated w/ him as if he were the great teacher & they were acolytes. They were all great in one way or another, Cage was just the one who put together the most comprehensive & total PR package.

"Still unfinished on October 27, just one week before the opening of our fourth two-week season at BAM, Objects remained inscrutable.

"Seven days before the premiere, Merce heard a taped performance of Vespers by Alvin Lucier, that had been suggested to him by Gordon Mumma. After hearing it he asked a few questions, then agreed to "give it a try." This flexible, live-electronics piece, which could be any length and adapted to any performance situation, had musicians moving blind through the performance space, finding their way by echolocation with the use of clicked, sonar-type instruments called "sondols."" - p 559

The 1st piece I ever heard by Lucier was on the "Extended Voices" record in 1975. The 2nd piece was on the "Electric Sound" record by the Sonic Arts Union in 1977. That was on the label that Earle Brown did A & R for. The piece was "Vespers". The Sonic Arts Union consisted of Lucier, Robert Ashley, David Behrman, & Gordon Mumma. "Vespers" was probably the piece that clinched my interest in Lucier, a composer who's very unique even in the avant-garde music world where being unique is practically a defining characteristic.

"Merce performed, with four distinct injuries, in every dance for the entire two-week season. In seven of the BAM performances, when Signals was on, I danced only two of the three works. If injured or ill, I now had understudies. It was incredible to me that Merce would not make a dance without himself in it. What drove him so relentlessly? Was it his ravenous appetite to perform, or did he harbor a secret belief that the company could not sustain the interest of the audience without him?" - p 561

The show must go on n'at but there're bound to be horrible possibilities that wd make that not happen. When I saw the Cunningham company in 1997 in Pittsburgh Cunningham wasn't dancing anymore, his legs were shot. While I was setting up for the last HiTEC show on March 13, 2010, I fell off a chair that I was standing on, hit the side of the stage, & landed on the floor 3 feet or so below. I probably cracked 3 ribs in the process. It was excrutiatingly painful & didn't heal for 10 wks. The show must go on & did: for an audience smaller than the membership of the group.

"Merce and John had always maintained separate living places, but in 1971 they moved into a basement floor-through on Bank Street, a block away from the Westbeth, just down the street from Yoko Ono and John Lennon. This was the first time Merce and John actually lived together, yet they'd been intimate for close to thirty years!" - p 564

Cage wd've been 58 or 59 then, Cunningham wd've been 51 or 52. Maybe they were starting to mature.

"Backstage at New York City Center on January 24, 1972, I found myself sharing a dressing room with Judith Jamison. It might be difficult to find two more disparate choreographers than Alvin Ailey and Merce Cunningham, or more disparate performers than Jamison and myself. She was about to perform her passionate, explosive signature solo, Cry, which Ailey had choreographed especially for her. Following her performance I would dance with Merce in his classic duet from Suite for Five. How strange that we were the only women representing modern dance in a gala performance to save the Dance Collection of the New York Public Library at Lincoln Center, which needed more than sixty thousand dollars to stay open for another year." - p 568

"In the fall of 1971, to honor Ted Shawn and celebrate his eightieth birthday. the Dance Collection at the New York Public Library hosted a cocktail party. Among the ballet celebrities, dance historians, and critics attending were many modern dancers whose lineage traced back to Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn through Denishawn's principle disciples Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, or Charles Weidman. I was a fourth-generation modern dancer via Cunningham and Graham, and directly-through my mother-a third-generation Denishawn dancer, so it's not surprising that Genevieve Oswald, curator of the Dance Collection, asked me to be one of the speakers at this occasion." - p 572

I read the whole bk w/o putting "Denis" & "Shawn" together to equal "Denishawn" until now.

"The Cunningham company definitely played third fiddle during the Sixth Festival of the Arts in Shiraz and Persepolis. The megastars were Robert Wilson and Karlheinz Stockhausen, whose works succeeded in perplexing, enchanting, irritating, and/or enraging many of those who witnessed them. Seemingly auto-intoxicated, Karlheinz strode the streets of Shiraz dressed in flowing robes of white, a latter-day Pied Piper, with hordes of local children chasing after him."


""Stockhausen: God or Maestro?" asked the Teheran Journal. To the question "Does he really think he's divine?" one of his compatriots responded, "No, he just wants us to think he is." As Earle said, "Karlheinz wakes up every morning and reinvents the light bulb."" - p 575

"The second megastar of the festival, but without the slightest hint of self-aggrandizement, was Robert Wilson-another truly great American artist-whose astonishing seven-day, twenty-four-hours-a-day play, Ka Mountain and GUARDenia Terraces, took place all over Shiraz" - p 576

I reckon Stockhausen's megalomania was probably annoying to be around but he's still an astonishingly innovative composer w/ an incredible body of work. As for Robert Wilson? I saw a play by him in collaboration w/ Susan Sontag in Berlin, definitely in 1994 (contrary to an online chronology), called "Alice in Bed". I found it spectacular but gimmicky as if Wilson had a collection of trademarks that made a Wilson staging recognizably his. Hence there was a very large person contrasted w/ a smaller one & stage design that played w/ this contrast. I was bored. Then again, it was in German & I cdn't follow most of the txt (although I had a German-speaking friend there to translate & synopsize for me) so I probably missed too much of it. It seems to be often the case that the people who have big production money make large-scale spectacles that wow the rubes - but that doesn't guarantee greatness otherwise. I'm sure Wilson's wk-long piece was probably an amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience but I'm also sure that it was funded by the people of Iran w/o their having much say in the matter.

I think I might prefer Wolf Vostell's "Fluxus-Concert LE CRI 31/10/90" wch featured an instrumentation of 2 stringquartetts, 4 wood-cutters, Zambombas, 20 TV sets, 5 soprano vocalists, 30 choir singers, 30 vacuum cleaners, trombone, oboes, one car crash, 400 spectators, 10 scores, one "Equipmentmusic" (Satie), where furniture gets destroyed, a sculpture/happening an environment/collage, the concert venue (Pleyel) on the bottom of the sea (Rimbaud extreme) in wch I suspect that the overkill of stimulation was as much a parody of consumerism as anything.

"For those of us backstage, the guards' weapons were visible and at the ready. but Gordon recalls that the musicians-who were, of course, in full view of the audience-were assigned guides in formal dress clothing, all wearing the same necktie design, their weapons carefully placed under their coats. His experience attempting to take photographs tells its own story:

"My male "guide" stopped me from taking a picture of the tiered rows of seats in the amphitheater (from my view on the performance stage). Later I learned why: the central section had a "box" for the Shah [actually, only his wife and mother-in-law, the Shah did not come]. Also, every alternate seat in the theatre was "marked" The "marked" seats were for the same neck-tie-design guides who totaled half of the audience population for our performance later that day." - p 578

Now, Wilson, Stockhausen, & Cunningham were apparently unaware (as were Andy Warhol & entourage at another time) of the political environment in Iran at the time. So was Iannis Xenakis when he presented his "Polytope de Persépolis" in Iran in 1971. However, later, he withdrew from participation in the festival when he did become aware. It's all too easy for artists to just be glad to be treated like aristocracy for a change after yrs of hardship w/o realizing what price the people are paying to make that happen.

"Ultimately, Xenakis withdrew from any further engagement with the Iranian government, informing the Festival Deputy Director General, Farrokh Ghaffary: "You know how attached I am to Iran, her history, her people. You know my joy when I realized projects in your festival, open to everyone. You also know of my friendship and loyalty to those who, like yourself, have made the Shiraz-Persepolis Festival unique in the world. But, faced with inhuman and unnecessary police repression that the Shah and his government are inflicting on Iran's youth, I am incapable of lending any moral guarantee, regardless of how fragile that may be, since it is a matter of artist creation."" - The Shiraz Festival: avant-garde arts performance in 1970s Iran

In Cologne:

"The audience laughed and shouted, barked and miowed, belched and called out 'shit'-if they hadn't already left the auditorium. All this was too much for one Cologne dance pedagogue Karl Foltz, who stood up and shouting to the upper balconies, 'Is this hospitality?' "

"We dancers danced on, seemingly unperturbed by the wild commotion. Koegler said we performed "with marvelous discipline under the most humiliating circumstances." In fact, I don't think any of us felt "humiliated" but instead believed that the audience had managed to humiliate itself. Did we think it was damnably rude? Yes. But for the musicians, it provided more ingredients for their sonic soup. John, David, and Gordon always had a field day carrying out Pauline Oliveros's directions for Canfield, but never had they been the target for such malevolence. In the end, they wreaked their own not-so-subtle revenge. Of course, one can readily understand any audience's angry reaction to the pedestrian, inane chatter of the musicians as they discuss the acoustical environment of the theater and ostensibly determine the resonant frequency as they roam about, talking to one another over walkie-talkies. What the audience did not know was that the bad-mouthing and obscenities had all been recorded as they occurred. Then, in the last third of the dance, it was all played back <at> the audience. Soon realizing it had been caught willy-nilly to become part of the music, the audience-according to Der Zeit-was silenced, embarrassed by its own aggression." - pp 583-584

I find it hard to believe that the audience wd be "embarrassed by its own aggression" given that I think any mob is delighted to let loose all its accumulated frustrations & hatreds on whoever's available as a vulnerable scapegoat. Still, if that actually happened I hope they recognized themselves for the idiots they were & that that recognition stayed w/ them.

Generally, John Cage is depicted as extremely affable. Brown gives us a few examples of when he wasn't. I appreciate this bk for not just being a PR whitewash.

"I was called away to the telephone-Lew Lloyd calling from New York to offer me the job of program director for dance at the New York State Council on the Arts, where he had recenlty become the program director for the performing arts. When I returned to the table, I related the substance of the call to Jim. John, overhearing, turned to me with near apoplectic rage-loud enough for all to hear-and said: "I shit on you if you take that job!"" - p 585

Brown writes in her diary about her existence as her time to quit the company approaches:

"How precious the dancing became! And yet I know that if I were faced with months and months of it to come-the repetitious rehearsals of old works, the reteaching, the touring, I would never be able to love dancing so much that last week. Hard to understand why I can't do it anymore when I truly enjoyed dancing so much, so often on this tour." - p 588

That seems so sad to me, possibly more sad than approaching death. At least w/ death one knows that it's a part of the natural trajectory but w/ giving up something that one loves there's the question of whether something similarly exhilirating it will replace it or whether one's quality of life will simply go down never to recuperate.

The Postscript:

"On a quintessentially New York-at-its-very-best spring day in April 2004, Merce had been invited to a dinner celebration in his honor at an apartment on Central Park South. What better way to get there on this exquisite late afternoon, the air redolent and delicious, than through the park?"


"Merce was eighty-five. His dancer's body had failed him. Now confined to a wheelchair, one thing had not changed: neither his appetite for making dances nor his pleasure in doing so was in any way diminished." - p 591

I understand why I love this bk & I'm glad that the expected readership for it is large enuf for a big publisher, Knopf, to invest in making it available as a hardback - but I'm a bit astounded that there is such a readership. I wonder if I know a single person other than myself who wd read this from cover-to-cover as I have. Maybe Knopf was just anticipating selling copies to universities & libraries. I can imagine the bk being bought under those conditions.. but reading it? & deeply identifying w/ it?! Those are quite different things.




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