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Story/Time: The Life of an Idea

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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    In this ceaselessly questioning book, acclaimed African American dancer, choreographer, and director Bill T. Jones reflects on his art and life as he describes the genesis ofStory/Time, a recent dance work produced by his company and inspired by the modernist composer and performer John Cage. Presenting personally revealing stories, richly illustrated with striking color photographs of the work's original stage production, and featuring a beautiful, large-format design, the book is a work of art in itself.

    Like the dance work,Story/Timethe book is filled with telling vignettes-about Jones's childhood as part of a large, poor, Southern family that migrated to upstate New York; about his struggles to find a place for himself in a white-dominated dance world; and about his encounters with notable artists and musicians. In particular, Jones examines his ambivalent attraction to avant-garde modernism, which he finds liberating but also limiting in its disregard for audience response. As he strives to make his work more personal and broadly engaging, especially to an elusive African American audience, Jones-who is still drawn to the avant-garde-wrestles with questions of how an artist can remain true to himself while still caring about the popular reception of his work.

    A provocative meditation on the demands and rewards of artistic creation,Story/Timeis an inspiring and enlightening portrait of the life and work of one of the great artists of our time.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5188-1
    Subjects: Performing Arts, History

Table of Contents

    (pp. 1-18)

    The first time I heard or saw John Cage was in 1972 at SUNY Binghamton. How I—a theater/dance major—happened to be present there in the Student Commons of the brand-new “College in the Woods” is a mystery to me forty years later.

    I remember the long table at which John Cage sat with, I believe, David Tudor and several other musicians behind a bank of microphones, reel-to-reel tape machines, amplifiers, a profusion of wires, and perhaps a traditional instrument or two. To the left of this table was a rowboat standing on its end. Next to it was...

    (pp. 19-96)

    Story/Timeis an evening-length work made for my ten-member company on a spare stage designed by Bjorn Amelan with a sound-score created by composer Ted Coffey and sound design by Sam Crawford. Initially this work, a response to John Cage’s 1958Indeterminacy, was to have been for myself—a lone reader in the middle of an empty space, reading an hour-plus of one-minute stories I have written in front of a small audience, with the participation of Ted Coffey. For various reasons, the company work eclipsed this initial idea.

    When the schedule at Princeton made Richardson Auditorium unavailable for the...

    (pp. 97-106)

    Let us look forward by first looking back. John Cage’s take on the life of the artwork—in his case the musical composition—has three separate elements:

    1. The compositional experience and its demands on the maker.

    2. The experience and demands of its execution or performance.

    3. The experience of the auditors/spectators/audience.

    For Cage these were three entirely distinct experiences. I find this position both a comfort and a provocation. I do not, however, embrace it as my own. Why is this?

    An artist, through his or her form, language, and structure, builds a bridge from his/her inner world to the outside...