Mark Morris’ musical mind

Studio 360
Mark Morris rehearsing “Grand Duo,” Mark Morris Dance Center, Brooklyn, 2015.

Music has always been central to the work of choreographer Mark Morris. And with that, he feels, comes a responsibility to have a deep understanding of how music works.

“I think that if you’re going to choreograph with music, which I always do,” Morris says, “you should know what the hell you’re talking about.”

His musical knowledge and appreciation is clear in his new memoir, “Out Loud,” which covers his life from his childhood dance classes in Seattle to the formation of the Mark Morris Dance Group in 1980 to adventures all over the world.

Mark Morris’ memoir “Out Loud.”
Mark Morris’ memoir “Out Loud.”Courtesy of Penguin Press

Kurt Andersen pays a visit to Morris’ Manhattan apartment to talk about the relationship between his dances and music. Morris shares an eclectic playlist of some of the musical pieces that inspire him:

  1. Harry Partch, Barstow – Eight Hitchhiker Inscriptions from a Highway Railing at Barstow, California.”
    “Partch really staged a one man revolution against European music.”
  2. George Jones, “Say It’s Not You.”
    “I very strongly affirm that George Jones is one of the very greatest American singers ever in any category.”
  3. M.S. Subbulakshmi, “Ksheerabdi Kanyakaku.”
    “The greatest singer that South India has ever produced … She had the purest, most astounding voice.”
  4. George Gershwin, “The Yankee Doodle Blues”  — performed by Van and Schenck.
    “Just a fabulous kind of patriotic [song] without being maudlin and repulsive.”
  5. Idjah Hadidjah, “Tonggeret.”
    “It was the most thrilling music I ever heard.”
  6. Henry Purcell, “Ah! Belinda” from “Dido and Aeneas” — performed by Lorraine Hunt Lieberson with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra.
    “[Lorraine Hunt Lieberson] was a very close friend of mine and a very great artist who died. So I want people to remember her voice.”
Mark Morris dancing in the “Dido and Aeneas” film shoot, Toronto, 1996.
Mark Morris dancing in the “Dido and Aeneas” film shoot, Toronto, 1996.Cylla von Tiedemann. Courtesy of Penguin Press.
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