Merce Cunningham

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Choreographer Merce Cunningham’s collaborative counterpart John Cage is often the topic of discussion when dealing with experimental approaches to music, but it is Cunningham’s use of Life Forms that is most relevant in the context of ANDC.

In Thecla Schiphorst’s MA Thesis A Case Study of Merce Cunningham’s use of the LifeForms Computer Choreographic System in the Making of Trackers, and subsequently Merce Cunningham: Creative Elements: 4 (Choreography and Dance Studies Series), edited by David Vaughan, [from which the following text and footnoting is an excerpt] Schiphorst writes:

“Over twenty years ago in his book, Changes: Notes on Choreography[1], Merce Cunningham imagined the design of a computer system that would enable three-dimensional figures to be displayed on a computer screen. He spoke of these figures moving in spatial relationship to one another, thereby enabling a choreographer to visualize dance stored on the computer.”[2]

I think a possible direction now [in 1968] would be to make an electronic notation… that is three dimensional… it can be stick figured or whatever, but they move in space so you can see the details of the dance; and you can stop it or slow it down… [it] would indicate where in space each person is, the shape of the movement, its timing.[3]

1. Merce Cunningham, Changes: Notes on Choreography, Something Else Press, Inc., New York, New York, 1968, edited by Frances Starr, unpaginated.

2. Thecla Schiphorst, Merce Cunningham: Making Dances with the Computer, Choreography and Dance: an International Journal, Routledge, New York, New York, 1997, edited by David Vaughan, 80.

3. Merce Cunningham, “From Notation to Video” The Dancer and the Dance, Marion Boyars Inc., 1980, pp. 188-189. In this excerpt Cunningham refers to his earlier statement about computers and notation that appears in Changes: Notes on Choreography, Edited by Frances Starr, Something Else Press, Inc. New York (1968).

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