(Mark Swed's article appeared in the LA Times, July 31.)
The tributes to choreographer Merce Cunningham, who died in New York at 90 Sunday evening, have been pouring in, and they are glorious.
I think we have consensus on the fact that Cunningham revolutionized modern dance and that he was the greatest living choreographer. That the world recognizes the genius, originality and importance of a beloved artist means a lot to us Merceophiles. Still, coming to Cunningham from music, I have been struck by how little has been said about Cunningham’s relationship to my art form, and by a certain grudging credit accorded Cunningham’s collaborator and greatest artistic influence, his companion and the music director of his company, John Cage.
It has been easy enough to dismiss the whole thing by noting that for Cunningham, dance and music were created apart, with the implication that in his case choreography did not need the music.
Moreover, the tone of Cunningham’s obituaries is significantly different from that of Cage’s. When he died in 1992, less than a month before his 80th birthday, Cage was widely credited for being among the most original music thinkers of all time and among the most influential and charismatic musicians of his day.
On YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NLOWy3ys8Ag