Monday, July 27, 2009

Merce Cunningham 1919-2009

Merce Cunningham has passed away, at the age of 90. I don't know a lot about him, and I'm not even sure I've seen a Merce Cunningham dance live, but it was impossible to be aware of art in America and not be aware of him. At least not today. I remember that he came to Swarthmore when I was a freshman. I had no idea who he was, I just knew that some guy was teaching dance for a semester. It was a great missed opportunity, because I made no effort to see him or his dances while he was there. Swarthmore's most famous musical graduate is Peter Schickele, creator of P.D.Q. Bach. I have no idea how to do this, but it occurs to me that somehow combining Merce Cunningham and P. D. Q. Bach would be a great opportunity for humor.

The other memory I have of him was attending a lecture about a book, Cage Cunningham Johns, about the three of them and their collaboration. It must be a great book; Amazon has some editions selling for $2,500. One thing sticks out: in the Q&A session, someone asked about the relationship between Cage and Cunningham, and it was only then that I learned that they were lovers. It's somehow not surprising that one of the great gay love affairs of the 20th century, between two such public figures, took place largely in secret, but it's also unfortunate.

Today I think I'm going to pick a random moment to skip down the sidewalk. And then I am going to stand still for 4 minutes and 33 seconds.

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