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Best Books on Martha GrahamRecommendations, please


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#1 papeetepatrick

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Posted 06 October 2008 - 04:13 PM

I'd like to know the best books on Graham's life--especially if there's something very good from after her death on her life; but also the most authoritative on the career and all the works, this would interest me the most, even if it's older and doesn't cover the later periods. I'm sure there's a lot of material down there, but I'd prefer to get bogged down in the less good documents after starting with the best ones.

Mel? Sandik? Alexandra? Anyone? Please tell me the best, as I am really inspired by her extraordinary genius more and more as I watch the old films and remember what I've seen live of the company in recent years (although I never saw Martha herself live, I adore the films of 'Night Journey' and 'Appalachian Spring' with her dancing).

#2 dirac

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Posted 06 October 2008 - 04:17 PM

My two cents (note I haven't read deeply in the subject):

Martha Graham’s Dancers Remember, by Robert Tracy

The Agnes De Mille biography. It is highly opinionated, to put it mildly, but it is well written like everything else by De Mille, and by one who was there.

The collection of photographs, “Martha Graham,” by Barbara Morgan.

#3 papeetepatrick

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Posted 06 October 2008 - 04:20 PM

Thanks so much, dirac. I will take a look at those forthwith. Yes, I definitely need to read the De Mille.

#4 rg

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Posted 06 October 2008 - 05:54 PM

the following have their good points:

1. this 'late' so-called autobiography is thin, but has MG's 'voice' more or less:
Graham, Martha.
Blood memory / Martha Graham. 1st ed.
New York : Doubleday, 1991

2. The first? actual biography written when MG was still working and when it is said she asked some people not to cooperate w/the author but it has a good grasp of the early facts of her career:
McDonagh, Don.
Martha Graham; a biography.
New York, Praeger [c1973]
341 p. illus. 24 cm.
Includes bibliography.

3. This is a jumble of material from MG's own notebooks; it's real drawback is no annotation but it's got MG's voice through and through, including reproductions of her actual, inimitable handwriting:
Graham, Martha.
The notebooks of Martha Graham; with an introd. by Nancy Wilson Ross.
New York, Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich [1973]
[54] p. on 27 l. illus. 28 x 36 cm.

#5 papeetepatrick

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Posted 06 October 2008 - 06:14 PM

Oh, the Notebooks, rg! Yes, that's what I want to see most, and NYPL has several copies, so I've just ordered one.

I was just thinking about having visited the incredibly beautiful and rarefied Noguchi Museum in Astoria in 2000. I had no idea that I'd see Jocasta's chair there. It's surely the original, isn't it? I just now watched 'Night Journey' again, and the way this complex and horribly beautiful structure is used is just indescribably. I think the rocking chair from 'Appalachian Spring' is there, too, but I'm not sure and have decided to go out there again in the next few weeks.

I like what you say about 'Martha's voice', because this voice is so moving in all its forms. In the 1976 Dance in America, the way she talks about 'Adoration' is deeply affecting, holy even; and just as much so aswhen she is talking about the woman in Brooklyn who came up to her after seeing 'Lamentation.' Right now I'm stuck on 'Diversion of Angels', and have to keep watching it over and over, and love DelloJoio's music too. This 'desire to memorize' a work has always been a sign for me of the works I most cared about, whether in literature, music or dance. I have 2 tapes of it right now, and they don't seem to be exactly the same. One is the Dance in America with Martha's introductions to each piece, and the other is from 1991 at Palais Garnier, shortly after her death. It may have been the dancers, but at this point of watching them only 3 or 4 times each, I am somewhat more taken with the 1991 one. But the McDonagh is going to help too.

#6 Amy Reusch

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Posted 06 October 2008 - 07:50 PM

I can't tell you the best... but if you're collecting recommendations, some people have been very fond of Ernestine Stodelle's Deep Song, out of print but I found several availble used when I googled.

#7 atm711

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Posted 07 October 2008 - 03:46 AM

I have a copy of 'Blood Memory' which I have enjoyed reading; all this talk has prompted me to re-read it.

#8 dirac

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Posted 09 October 2008 - 05:34 PM

I hope you'll report back and tell us what you think if you do read any of these, Patrick.

#9 papeetepatrick

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Posted 09 October 2008 - 05:50 PM

Oh, you needn't worry about that--I expect to read all of them. There's no artist I admire more, and this state of awe and astonishment only seems to grow with time.


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