Interview with Bonnie Bird,

Interview with Bonnie Bird, 1977-10-17.
Bird, Bonnie,
October 17, 1977.
Electronic Resource


Additional Authors
Found In
Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation Collection.
2 streaming audio files (54 minutes total) : digital, stereo
Alternative Title
Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation Collection. Audio materials.
Interviews (Sound recordings)
  • David Vaughan interviews Bonnie Bird, probably in New York, New York, on October 17, 1977. This interview was created as research for David Vaughan's book, Merce Cunningham: Fifty years (New York, Aperture).
  • Title and date provided by cataloger based on audition and handwritten note on original container and cassette.
  • Handwritten note on original container and cassette: "1: DV Interview with Bonnie Bird ; 17 October 1977 ; 2. Bonnie Bird continued (rest of side is blank)".
  • Sound quality is good.
Access (note)
  • Patrons can access streaming audio only on site at NYPL Research Libraries.
Source (note)
  • Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation,
Linking Entry (note)
  • Forms part of the Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation Collection.
Call Number
*LTC-A 1441
Bird, Bonnie, interviewee.
Interview with Bonnie Bird, 1977-10-17.
October 17, 1977.
Playing Time
004322 001109
Type of Content
spoken word
Type of Medium
Type of Carrier
online resource
Recorded in, New York, New York, 1977 October 17.
Streaming file 1, side 1: Bonnie Bird speaks with David Vaughan about her background as a dancer in the Martha Graham Company and then teaching the Graham technique at Cornish College of the Arts; her recollections of Merce Cunningham while he was a student at Cornish in the late 1930's, including his change in major from drama to dance; she speaks about the head of the drama department, Alexander Koriansky; she speaks about student performances especially one in which she had to change the program last minute to being a lecture-demonstration; she speaks briefly about performance programs given by the students to showcase their compositions as well as teaching choreography based on the ideas of Louis Horst; briefly, teaching a summer course at Mills College, meeting Lou Harrison there, and his introducing her to John Cage and Xenia Cage; she speaks about Cage and an idea that he had for a modern dance with John Steinbeck; inviting Cage to be the accompanist for her classes at Cornish College; Cage's interest in percussion and the percussion concerts he created at Cornish, including Cunningham's participation in one; Cunningham's friendship with fellow student and anthropologist, Joyce Wike; more about Wike's study of the Pacific northwest Native American dances; Bird speaks about how her own awareness of her family's history grew at that time; she speaks about Cunningham's Inlets (1977) and it's relationship to the Pacific northwest landscape; Vaughan speaks about Cage's score for Inlets that incorporates sounds of water in conch shells and pine cones burning; Bird speaks about meeting Nancy Wilson Ross through Nellie Cornish, how Ross shared Bird's interest in relating the various fields of arts, and the climate of the times that fostered artistic exploration; Bird speaks about how the interchange between the arts at Cornish created an environment that inspired the students, especially Cunningham; she speaks about how Cunningham returned from a family vacation to Washington, D.C. inspired by the Vaudeville and tap dance performances he saw there; she tells an anecdote about being concerned for Cunningham's eating while he was saving up for a new pair of shoes, and briefly the general impact of the Great Depression on the students; they look through programs and read the program note for Skinny structures (1938) in which Cunningham performed and created a solo; Vaughan lists other Cunningham works from this time, which were under the direction of Bird for her composition class, Unbalanced march (1938), and Jazz epigram (1938?); they speak more about the choreographic material for Skinny structures; Bird speaks about graduate student Syvilla Fort's solo concert Bacchanal (1940) with music composed by Cage; she tells an anecdote on how Cage began to explore prepared piano music when she brought in brass for a prop and it accidentally fell into the piano during dance class; they speak briefly about the reasons that Cunningham didn't give a graduation concert; ends abruptly.
Streaming file 2, side 2: Bonnie Bird continues to speak with David Vaughan about taking some of her Cornish students to Mills College for the Bennington School of the Dance summer sessions; the duet she created for Merce Cunningham and Dorothy Herrmann [Weston] to perform at Mills and the positive reception of their performance; Cunningham's technique and characteristics as a dancer at that time; Martha Graham's invitation of Cunningham and Herrmann to dance with her in New York, Cunningham taking Graham's offer, and his performance with the Martha Graham Dance Company in Seattle the following year; they speak about how Cunningham thinks of his time at Cornish College as an important influence on his career; Bird tells an anecdote about Nellie Cornish's response to discovering that Bird had eloped; briefly, the influence of the Pacific northwest landscape on artists; ends abruptly.
Restricted Access
Patrons can access streaming audio only on site at NYPL Research Libraries.
Original Version
Archival original: (1 audio cassette (54 minutes) : analog) in *LTC-A 1441.
Linking Entry
Forms part of the Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation Collection.
Local Note
Transferred from original analog cassette by George Blood Audio on March 25, 2015; two preservation files were created based on the cassette sides.
Gift; Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation, 2011-2012.
Connect to:
Added Author
Vaughan, David, 1924- interviewer.
Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation, donor.
Added Title
Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation Collection. Audio materials.
Found In:
Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation Collection.
Research Call Number
*LTC-A 1441
View in Legacy Catalog