To affirm life . . . not to a specialized world of art, but to the open, unpredictably changing world of everyday living.
Music for Merce features an all-star cast of former Cunningham collaborators convened by guest curator John King.
Each day presents a unique program of the musicians’ historic and new works, with electronic music, traditional instruments, and vocals performed in different small and large ensembles. For the grand finale each day, all ten composers play a version of a Cunningham Event—each individually devising a unique time-score before performing together as one big sound, revealed for the first time during the performance itself.
Merce Cunningham and John Cage, partners in life and art, defied expectations of how to do things. Their restless explorations not only revolutionized their individual fields, they also changed the relation of music and dance. Instead of choreographing dance to music, they created both elements separately and brought them together at the performance—fundamentally changing the nature of how we experience performance. As Cage wrote in a program note for an early Cunningham performance, this is art that doesn’t “say” something, but rather simply “presents” activity.
Major figures include:
- Vocalist Joan La Barbara
- Computer music pioneer David Behrman
- Multi-instrumentalist and inventor Fast Forward
- Electronics/ trombonist George Lewis
- Drummer Ikue Mori
- Harpist/ multi-instrumentalist Zeena Parkins
- Singer/ songwriter/ drummer Phil Selway
- Multi-instrumentalist Quinta
- Pianist Christian Wolff
Presented in conjunction with Merce Cunningham: Common Time
Running time: 120 minutes
Sat, Feb 25
"Or 4 People" (1994)
Christian Wolff, George Lewis, David Behrman, and John King
Joan La Barbara
"Solitary Journeys of the Mind" (2011)
Joan La Barbara
Philip Selway, Quinta, and Ikue Mori
"One Note Arpeggio" (2014)
Philip Selway and Quinta
"Of Course I Do" (2014)
Philip Selway, Quinta, and John King
"Fontana Mix" with "Aria" and "Indeterminacy" (1958–ongoing)
Ikue Mori and David Behrman
Joan La Barbara
"petite ouverture en forme de mErCE CunninGHAm" (2009)
Christian Wolff, Quinta, George Lewis, and John King
Sun, Feb 26
"Shadowgraph, 5" (1977)
Joan La Barbara, George Lewis, Ikue Mori, Zeena Parkins, Quinta, and Fast Forward
"Captiva Pieces for Acoustic Harp and Processing" (2016–ongoing)
Zeena Parkins and David Behrman
"Long Throw" (2007–ongoing)
David Behrman, Christian Wolff, John King George Lewis, Zeena Parkins, and Quinta
Solo: Ikue Mori
Duet: Ikue Mori and Christian Wolff
"December" (1952) and "November" (1952)
Zeena Parkins, Joan La Barbara, Quinta, George Lewis, Philip Selway, and Christian Wolff
Fast Forward, Ikue Mori, Phil Selway, and George Lewis
Join performers of Music for Merce one hour before the performance on Sunday, February 26, for a pre-show conversation.
About the Artist
John King is a composer, guitarist, and violinist who has worked collaboratively with and been commissioned by Kronos Quartet, Ethel, the Bang On a Can All-Stars, Avant Media, and the Belgrade Philharmonic, as well as by the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, New York City Ballet, Stuttgart Ballet, and Mannheim Ballet. He has written several operas: ping and what is the word with texts by Samuel Beckett, impropera using randomly selected text messages from the singers’ cell phones, and herzstuck/heartpiece with texts by Heiner Muller, to name a few. King was the codirector of the Music Committee for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company from 2003 until it’s closing in 2011. He is the recipient of the 2009 Alpert Award in the Arts for Music and the 2014 Foundation for Contemporary Arts Award for Sound/Music. Recently, King was awarded a Rockefeller Foundation/Bellagio Residency for March 2016, in addition to residencies at The McDowell Colony, New Hampshire, and The Emily Harvey Foundation in Venice, Italy.