From the Publisher
"Candid, compelling, and possessed of a keen critical eye and ear, Brown tells fascinating tales of New York's madly innovative mid-twentieth-century art world, details the endless struggle to keep the cash-poor company together, discloses her own sacrifices and triumphs, and assesses the profound influence of the Cage-Cunningham aesthetic"Booklist, starred review
"Though she modestly never says so, reading her book, one realizes that Carolyn Brown's body carries with it an accumulated history of nearly the whole century of modern American dance."The Nation
"[This] clear-eyed, unsentimental memoir . . . is something rarean eyewitness account of an artistic revolution."
Nicholas Fox Weber
Carolyn Brown’s rich account of 20 years of dancing with Merce Cunningham and John Cage, Chance and Circumstance, provides an insider’s portrait of two pioneering modernists who ventured into uncharted territory in the realm of dance and music. Brown vividly evokes the thrills and struggles inherent to true liberation, and describes the courage requisite to artistic inventiveness. She is a rare memoirist who focuses on her mentors’ physical and spiritual leaps rather than on herself; her guileless revelations illuminate what went right and wrong in Cunningham and Cage’s personal dealings, as well as in their fight for survival.
The New York Times
Brown, a founding member of Merce Cunningham's dance company, began working on her memoir shortly after leaving the troupe in 1972, but it's proved worth the 30-year wait. Of course, the behind-the-scenes perspective on Cunningham's groundbreaking choreography is invaluable, but Brown's keen critical insights are enhanced by her account of Cunningham's temperamental difficulties in relating to and managing his fellow artists. She also discusses the role avant-garde composer John Cage played in the company's development, although it's the emotional roller-coaster of their friendship that proves most memorable. For many, the centerpiece of Brown's story might be found in several chapters devoted to a 1964 world tour, but there are wonderful moments sprinkled throughout, including the debut performance of Cage's landmark silent piece, 4'33" , along with humorous vignettes featuring Robert Rauschenberg, Willem de Kooning and Rudolf Nureyev. Brown writes with great candor about the emotional costs of her artistic commitment, but she can occasionally be oblique; the dissolution of her marriage to open-form composer Earle Brown nearly gets lost in the shuffle of performances (and reactions to outraged critics, many recounted in detail). Her story will become an indispensable document for anyone curious about the mid-century revolution in American art. 40 pages of photos. (Mar. 21)Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Currently the artistic consultant to the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, Brown traces the trajectory of her modern dance career with that organization during its crawling stages in the 1950s and 1960s, when composer John Cage was musical director and artist Robert Rauschenberg was set and costume designer. Brown documents the company's early struggles for acceptance (it was considered avant-garde), various tours, and eventual world recognition. She cites Merce Cunningham's philosophy of dance as being a "spiritual exercise in physical form" and captures the excitement of being part of something new and different (this was before both Cage and Cunningham were famous). Readers will feel as though they're on the road with the company as it grows and changes and as the modern dance world transitions from the renowned Martha Graham style. This book will appeal to modern dance buffs and memoir readers. Other works on the subject include Cunningham's The Dancer and the Danceand David Revill's The Roaring Silence: John Cage, A Life. Recommended for all libraries.