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28 July 2009

Merce died…

UPDATED APRIL 22, 2011: As you can see from the comments at the end of this post, I attributed the quotes that originally accompanied these pictures to the wrong person. They were not from Merce, but from a colleague of his named Nancy Dalva. I’d recommend you read the full text of her piece “How to be a Guru.”

Whoops! The internet is confusing. Enjoy her piece, and enjoy the pictures in isolation.


I hope you will not consider it horn tooting to point out my earlier post about him, as brief as it was. I am so happy, now, that I saw him before he was found. And all I can say is at least he seemed to know what was coming. There’s a beauty in that, in preparation.

And, also, there’s a certain beauty in improvisation. So, in what I hope you’ll take as an experiment in what Merce himself might have called “chance procedures,” here are a series of images from the Black Lips concert I attended the day before he passed, along with quotes from the man himself. No explicit connection, but imply whatever you’d like.

Photos via by Bao Nguyen. Quotations via Bill Bragin‘s Twitter stream.


[Redacted at the request of Nancy Dalva.]

[Redacted at the request of Nancy Dalva.]

[Redacted at the request of Nancy Dalva.]

[Redacted at the request of Nancy Dalva.]
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Posted by Alec Hanley Bemis  

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20 April 2009

Toumani passes on praise & Merce’s velvet suit

merce(photograph via The New York Times)

It was arts & culture weekend at Bemis HQ, beginning with two pieces you might call dance, a practice for which I won’t claim to have any intuitive feel. The subtleties are somewhat lost on me, raised as I was on provocative alt-rock and the adrenaline urge of punk rock. But I’m trying. And this seemed like a perfect opportunity for cross-training, given the fact that the particular auteurs whose works I chose tend to see the world of dance as one with porous borders.

Saturday afternoon at the Guggenheim came my first live taste of theater artist Robert Wilson’s work. Highlights were the stark quality of the stage lights (frequently marked by use of silhouette, occasionally by a kind of epilepsy-baiting flicker effect) as well as the Butoh-like intensity of movement (punctuated by a handful of solos featuring individual performers carrying a short stack of long wood planks across the stage, dropping them to dramatic effect). For my Sunday matinee, I took in my first Merce Cunningham dance at BAM. I was drawn in by the music (Sonic Youth with Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones) but once there found myself more riveted by the frequent push toward physically impossible movement and, during the curtain call, by Merce’s velvet suit. (See photo, above.)

By far, however, the highlight of the weekend came last night, Toumani Diabate at Le Poisson Rouge. A Malian musician, Diabate has collaborated with pop stars (Bj√∂rk, Damon Albarn) and world-champion instrumentalists (Roswell Rudd, Bela Fleck, countryman Ali Farka Toure), but he is less a sideman than a master in his own right. More after the jump… Read more »

Posted by Alec Hanley Bemis  

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