in the Cunningham Dance Co. milieu

Gordon Mumma

The half-century creative relationship between John Cage and the Merce Cunningham Dance Co. has been extensively documented. In recent years, with the increased availability of original documents—letters, photos, films, and audio recordings—a better and broader balance of perspectives has become possible on the entire artistic milieu.

          My presentation will focus on a specific aspect of the energetic artistic activities during the 1950s into the 1970s. At that time most of the participating artists were only beginning to receive serious recognition of their individual work. More importantly, this was also the time when interactive and energetic collaborative work was a primary impetus for the individual artists and development of their future work.

          In particular here are the 1952 beginnings of Robert Rauschenberg's development of his "combines." Similar cross-nourishments between Cage, Cunningham and others flourished throughout those years. The "others"—a wide range of "theatre" people—includes dancers, musicians, and designers of decor and lighting, and the evolving film and video technologies.

Primary example to be included:

Cunningham: MINUTIAE (1952) / Cage FOR PIANO 1-20 / Rauschenberg UNTITLED—a choreography interactive with decor. Though unplanned, all aspects of this creative project  involved "small fragments" of  [1] choreographic physical motion, [2] found images assembled in collage, [3] isolated sounds of two pianos, assembled by Cage's developing "chance operations" compositional procedures.

References to secondary examples:

Cunningham - Cage: VARIATION V (1965)  (plus many others)
                         choreography / dance geography fundamental to music articulation

Cunningham: LOOPS (1971) /  internal physical sounds become "music"

Cunningham: TV-RERUN (1972)  / Mumma: TELEPOS  / Johns, etc.
                        physical motion of dance ensemble produces resultant electronic sounds
                        (perhaps an efficient variant of the VARIATIONS V technology)