One of the great creative forces of our time died Sunday, choreographer Merce Cunningham. It would be almost disingenuous to call him one of the leading artistic revolutionaries of the 20th Century, if for no other reason than he remained choreographing past his recent 90th birthday and continued to the end a profound influence on our view of movement and time.

Photo (CC) yan.da.

From John Cage to Radiohead, there are few people in any medium so closely tied to the explorations of experimental music’s frontiers than Cunningham. To understand why music was so important to him – and electronic music in particular – we can listen to Merce himself. He explains that part of this shift in thinking about time came from the eradication of bars and beats in electronic music:

http://ubu.artmob.ca/sound/aspen/mp3/cunningham1.mp3

From an interview on UbuWeb.

(Thanks to Benjamin Dauer for the tip.)

That’s just one example, though; there’s quite a lot more we could talk about. I’d like to do a timeline of Merce’s significant sound collaborations and review some of the moments in electronic music history with which he was involved. On Create Digital Motion, we’ll look back at his LifeForms software and the work he did with motion. But I need your help: please send along resources you think may be helpful, any of your own experiences of the artist and his work, and other tips and questions.

On Create Digital Motion:
Remembering Merce Cunningham, Digital Motion, and Digital Portraits

Merce Cunningham Dies [New York Times ArtBeat]
Merce Cunningham Foundation

MCF and MCD will be receiving visitors today. (See site above.)

  • http://theycontrol.us eisnein

    truly a visionary to be remembered and honored. i was fortunate enough to catch the Merce performance with Sigur Ros and Radiohead and will count that as one of the most multi-dimensional inspiring performances i have ever seen. thank you and my best to his family and loved ones.

  • http://debsinha.com deb

    first pina bausch, now merce cunningham. we've had a hard few months in terms of dance artists/visionaries who have influenced a wide variety of art forms and ways of creating. thanks for posting this, peter, and i look forward to looking at that timeline and what you have to say about his collaborations.

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  • http://peteryumi.wordpress.com Peter Yumi

    Sad day. Merce Cunningham has been an inspiration to millions and will continue to be and inspiration for generations to come.

  • http://www.myspace.com/occularium Dwayne Erickson

    WOW–didn't hear about Pina Bausch– I love her work as well..

    I was fortunate enough to work stage tech crew for Merce Cunningham a few times–the last time, about 4 years ago, he was in a wheelchair, but he still got up and did his bar exercises with his dancers.The man is a true LEGEND in dance and multimedia performance. Visionary and always original. Very sad. The very essence of MODERN.

  • rhowaldt

    if i promise to look into his stuff, will you promise not to hit me when i say i never heard of him?

  • http://debsinha.com deb

    rhowaldt, ain't nobody gonna hit you for looking up something that will be wonderful to learn about! he really did some amazing work and the way he thought about his art form has been immensely influential. i accompany a lot of contemporary dance classes here in toronto, mostly with a woman named peggy baker, and listening to her speak about dance and movement over the years—well, let's just say i wouldn't be half the musician i am today if i hadn't started playing for dance. i often tell her that she is one of my most important teachers. if you open your mind, people who think and practice their craft deeply (scientists, musicians, painters, dancers, dammit, taxi drivers even) all tap into something elemental about being in the present moment and seeing into reality deeply. so go forth rhowaldt!

  • http://www.dartanyan.com Dartanyan

    Thanks Peter so much for posting his comments. The Black Mountain School was, in a sense, our American Bauhaus of performance art. Just imagine the dance that Michael and Merce are doing right now….;-)

    Again, thanx