Discovering the Music within our Dance collections: Composer Lucia Dlugoszewski and the Erick Hawkins Dance Company

The following is a guest post from Kaitlin (Kate) Doyle, one of the Music Division’s summer Fellows. Dance Curator Libby Smigel introduces her.

  

Kate Doyle (left) and Libby Smigel examine one of Lucia Dlugoszewski’s scores. (Photo by Mary Wedgewood, Music Division, Library of Congress.)

Kate Doyle (left) and Libby Smigel examine one of Lucia Dlugoszewski’s scores. (Photo by Mary Wedgewood, Music Division, Library of Congress.)

Meet Kate Doyle, a doctoral candidate specializing in experimental composition and sound for performance art at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. Kate spent her summer as a CWRU Fellow assisting us in the Music Division. Kate’s expertise in experimental music was an asset in identifying and organizing the vast amount of original music commissioned for Erick Hawkins and his modern dance company. She gave particular attention to Lucia Dlugoszewski’s scores, creative notes and writings, and personal papers. Thanks to her expertise and enthusiasm, this unique collection documenting dance and music collaboration will soon be available to the public. Kate and I will be introducing scholars to Lucia and Erick’s collaborative process at the November 2016 American Musicological Society and Society for Music Theory Conference in Vancouver, BC, and presenting a public lecture at the Library of Congress in April 2017.We both hope you’ll follow our progress as we discover more about the duo’s creative process. Because of Kate’s essential role in making Lucia’s legacy more discoverable, we have invited Kate to contribute a blog posting on her recent work for the Music Division:

 

 

“Since Lucy first came to work with me in 1951, she has devoted herself almost entirely to writing for the dances in a way unprecedented in the history of modern movement,” choreographer and dancer Erick Hawkins writes in 1958. “No artist of first rank other than her has really collaborated with enough knowledge or love to fathom the problem of seeing and hearing at the same time.” (Letter to Northrup, February 27, 1958, from the Erick Hawkins and Lucia Dlugeszewski Papers, Music Division. This and subsequent citations are all found in this special collection.)

In this letter to philosopher F.S.C. Northrup, Hawkins espouses the artistry and dedication of his collaborator and wife, composer Lucia Dlugoszewski (1925-2000).* Dlugoszewski began composing for Hawkins while she was studying in New York City with pianist Grete Sultan and composers John Cage and Edgar Varèse. For the next forty years, she devoted much of her time to writing compositions for his dance company. She composed more than eighteen major works for Hawkins’s choreography, penned numerous prose accounts of their joint artistic philosophy, and served as director of the Erick Hawkins Dance Company after his death in 1994.

Lucia Dlugoszewski playing her percussion instruments. (Photographer and date unknown, publicity photo, Erick Hawkins and Lucia Dlugoszewski Papers, Music Division, Library of Congress.)

Lucia Dlugoszewski playing her percussion instruments. (Photographer and date unknown, publicity photo, Erick Hawkins and Lucia Dlugoszewski Papers, Music Division, Library of Congress.)

Through her writing for Hawkins’s choreography and in her independent compositions for chamber ensembles, Dlugoszewski exemplified an innovation and brilliance that attracted the praise of artists and critics such as Jamake Highwater, Robert Sabin, Ned Rorem, and Virgil Thomson. In 1980, she became the first woman to win the Serge Koussevitsky International Recording Award for her piece Fire Fragile Flight. Virgil Thomson described her music as one of “great delicacy, originality, and beauty of sound … ingenious with regard to instrumental virtuosities and of unusually high level in its intellectual and poetic aspects” (American Music since 1910, Holt, Rinehart, 1971). Leighton Kerner of the Village Voice wrote that she “breathes a kind of super-oxygen that would burn up the product of most other contemporary composers” (May 11, 1972). And Ned Rorem called her one of the six best living American composers (Vogue, September 1979).

Yet Dlugoszewski’s work has become relatively unknown. Likely, the fact that Dlugoszewski died unexpectedly at the age of seventy-four without a will or heir contributes to her erasure from histories of modern experimental music. When Hawkins died in 1994, he left his estate to her; her death in 2000 without a will resulted in the obscurity of their individual and joint artistic contributions.

The Erick Hawkins Collection came to the Library of Congress Music Division in 2001. Much of the collection deals with Hawkins himself, including papers from his company, choreographic notebooks, business documents, and personal correspondence. Within this collection, however, resides a hidden treasure: a large body of materials related to Lucia Dlugoszewski. The Library of Congress houses eleven pieces of music—including scores, parts, and sketches—that Lucia wrote for Hawkins’s company, two large compositions for instrumental ensembles, press materials, published and unpublished essays, poems written for Hawkins, a scrapbook from the composer’s childhood, and letters from Dlugoszewski to her parents penned between 1949 and 1951, the years that she studied piano and composition in New York. These letters, written to her mother and father on nearly a daily basis, describe in intimate detail Dlugoszewski’s early artistic life and development as a composer.

First page of timbre piano score for Black Lake, with Dlugoszewski’s notes. (Erick Hawkins and Lucia Dlugoszewski Papers, Music Division, Library of Congress.)

First page of timbre piano score for Black Lake, with Dlugoszewski’s notes. (Erick Hawkins and Lucia Dlugoszewski Papers, Music Division, Library of Congress.)

Many of the scores and parts are original and handwritten; those that are published are often marked with performance instructions in the composer’s own hand. These direct, personal instructions are invaluable in determining how best to understand the pieces—whether for analysis or performance.

Dlugoszewski invented a number of musical instruments to use in her compositions. She worked with sculptor Ralph Dorazio to design unique percussion instruments that produce unusual timbres. She also invented the “timbre piano,” a model of prepared piano that employs glass jars, hairpins, metal, and a variety of wood and fabric mallets rubbed against and placed on the strings. Dlugoszewski played these instruments herself in the performances of her scores for the Hawkins Dance Company, and the collection houses a number of the parts she used. Perhaps the most notable example is the timbre piano part for Black Lake, a major production first performed by the Hawkins company in 1969. The part is embellished profusely with handwritten instructions and reminders of when, where, and how to manipulate the piano strings to produce specific effects. This document is unique evidence of Dlugoszewski’s performance practice.

 

 

Throughout the summer of 2016, the Hawkins materials have been reorganized to draw attention to the vital role that Dlugoszewski held within the Hawkins Company itself and in the field of experimental music in general. Now, her scores and personal papers will be accessible to the general public for research, analysis, and appreciation. As a testament to Dlugoszewski’s innovative career and to the value of her materials within this archive, the Erick Hawkins Collection has been renamed the Erick Hawkins and Lucia Dlugoszewski Papers. When the reorganization and rehousing of the collection has been completed, the searchable finding aid to the materials will be announced in a future blog posting.

Kaitlin Doyle, PhD Candidate, Case Western Reserve University

 

* Dlugoszewski’s birth year has often been published as 1931. Because of the reorganization of family records this past summer, however, we believe her correct birth year to be 1925.

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