Toshi Ichiyanagi, who composed music for Merce Cunningham, died recently at the age of 89. Ichiyanagi studied at The Juilliard School in New York before working with Cunningham. He occasionally played for Cunningham's classes on 14th Street and was responsible for the Company's invitation from the Sogetsu Arts Center during the 1964 World Tour.
"In my creation, I have been trying to let various elements, which have often been considered separately as contrast and opposite in music, coexist and penetrate each other", Ichiyanagi once said in an artist statement.
Ichiynagi was the general artistic director of the Kanagawa Arts Foundation, serving until his death in that position. While working with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, Ichiyanagi composed music for Waka (Music for Piano No. 2 - 1960); Story (Kaiki, also known as Music for Piano [electronic version], or Sapporo - 1963); and Scramble (Activities for Orchestra - 1967).
October is the anniversary of two important Cunningham works: Totem Ancestor, which premiered on October 20, 1942 (80 years ago at the Humphrey-Weidman Studio Theatre in New York City) and Quartet, which had its first performance on October 27, 1982 at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, France.
Although premiered in Paris, Quartet was “previewed” in Geneva earlier in October 1982. Despite its name, it is a dance for five dancers. As Cunningham explained: The title was prompted by two possibilities. The first is that two of the dancers act as one in the sense that they do the same movements at the same time; the second is my role in it which again separates me from the others. The dance was performed 62 times before it left the repertory on June 20, 1991. It was revived for MCDC’s final two-year tour, and performed 15 times from March-December 2011.
Totem Ancestor was part of a program presented by Merce Cunningham along with two fellow dancers from the Martha Graham company (Jean Erdman and Nina Fonaroff). It was last performed by Cunningham on January 2, 1954. Working from the Laban Notation of the dance, Daniel Roberts, while a student at Ohio State University, reconstructed the dance. He was coached by Merce Cunningham who later asked Roberts to join MCDC. The piece was also danced numerous times by former MCDC member Daniel Madoff, who recently taught it to Mac Twining as part of the upcoming MCT-BAC-Juilliard program Unavailable Memory: In Conversation with Cunningham and Cage. It has also been danced recently by former MCDC member Ashley Chen.
Unavailable Memory, a program curated by former MCDC dancer and Trust Director of Licensing Patricia Lent and pianist Adam Tendler, will feature in addition to Totem Ancestor: performances of a version of Cunningham's Loops, dance by Justin Lynch, Chaery Moon, and Molissa Fenley; commissioned works by four Juilliard students to John Cage music that was used by Cunningham for dances for which we have no record; and a new piece by Bebe Miller in response to her engagement with Loops. This iteration of our In Conversation programs is not to be missed (see below for details).
If you have a moment, please visit our expanded Memories page, which now includes individual dancer's memorable recollections of specific performances they danced or experiences they had while with the company. The initial memories are from Carolyn Brown, Douglas Dunn, and Emma Diamond. Each memory includes David Vaughan's archive card for the performance that is the subject of the memory. This is an ever-expanding collection (alongside our video memories of Merce himself), so worth checking back periodically to see what has been added.