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Book Cover for: Love, Icebox: Letters from John Cage to Merce Cunningham, John Cage

Love, Icebox: Letters from John Cage to Merce Cunningham

John Cage

Cage's passionate, distraught and affectionate letters to Cunningham provide a vivid portrait of the start of their life together

A New York Times critics' pick Best Art Books 2019

These early letters from John Cage to Merce Cunningham will be revelatory, for while the two are widely known as a dynamic, collaborative duo, the story of how and when they came together has never been fully revealed. In the 39 letters of this collection, spanning 1942-46, Cage shows himself to be a man falling deeply in love. When they first met at the Cornish School in Seattle in the 1930s, Cage was 26 to Cunningham's 19. Their relationship was purely that of teacher and student, and Cage was also very much married.

It was in Chicago that their romantic relationship would begin. Cage was teaching at Moholy-Nagy's School of Design when Cunningham passed through town as a dancer with the Martha Graham Company, appearing on stage on March 14, 1942. Cage's letters, which begin in earnest a week later, are increasingly passionate, distraught, romantic and confused, and occasionally contain snippets of poetry and song. They are also more than love letters, as we see intimations that resonate with our experience of the later John Cage.

Love, Icebox takes its shape from these letters--transcribed, chronologically ordered, and in some instances reproduced in facsimile. Laura Kuhn, Cage's assistant from 1986 to 1992 and now longtime director of the John Cage Trust, adds a foreword, afterword and running commentary. Photographic illustrations of their final 18th Street loft in New York City, as well as personal and household objects left behind, remind us of the substance and rituals of their long-shared life.

Book Details

  • Publisher: John Cage Trust
  • Publish Date: Aug 20th, 2019
  • Pages: 144
  • Language: English
  • Dimensions: 9.40in - 6.70in - 0.50in - 0.95lb
  • EAN: 9781942884385
  • Categories: LettersIndividual Composer & MusicianDance - Modern
Praise for this book
Illuminating; hopefully we can expect the John Cage Trust to produce more fresh books, each as surprising and valuable as this.--Richard Kostelanetz "Rain Taxi Review of Books"
Love, Icebox: Letters from John Cage to Merce Cunningham lets us into one side of the storied 20th-century partnership between the composer and dancer/choreographer. As a collection of beautifully presented photographs and transcripts, the book expresses the foundation of the couple's relationship, the development of Cage's creative life, and the inevitable merging of the two.--Blair Johnson "Full Stop"
John Cage's onetime assistant and now the director of the John Cage Trust -- collects a series of 39 letters that the composer wrote to the dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham during the 1940s. What's lovely about this slim volume is how it traces the full arc of a relationship.--Henry Alford "New York Times: Book Review"
To see how Cage's brilliant mind transposed disparate elements around him into an ongoing legacy inspires me to keep returning to his challenging, nonlinear work.--Dave Wheeler "Shelf Awareness"
An intimate look inside the long-standing romantic and creative collaboration between two of the titans of the Modernist avant-garde: Merce, the fierce dancer, and John, the cerebral composer.--Rumaan Alam "New Republic"
Preserved by Cunningham and discovered after his death in 2009, [the letters] constitute the foundation stones of one of the great Modernist love affairs, one that began as a teacher-student crush (Cage was the teacher) and blossomed into an artistic collaboration and 50-year marriage. We only get Cage's view of the affair in the letters, but the emotions expressed are intense enough to speak for two...--Holland Cotter "New York Times"
Love, Icebox is extremely gratifying and nearly guiltily so. A book of letters dated between 1942 to 1946 from John Cage to Merce Cunningham, Love, Icebox illustrates at least one perspective on the beginning and formation of Cage and Cunningham's relationship.--Perwana Nazif "Los Angeles Review of Books"