Today I put all of my MG research in the attic

Oct 1, 2022 | 0 comments

Fourteen linear feet of handwritten research notes from countless library and archival sessions; printed out transcribed notes from listening to audiotaped interviews and sitting with Martha Graham dancers in cafes and studios and homes; downloaded typo-riddled laptop-rushed impressions from sitting in on Graham studio rehearsals; nearly-indecipherable pencil scrawls written in the dark on repertory program pages from City Center and Joyce Theatre concerts; printouts of screen shots of Martha Graham dances spanning from silent Denishawn films to grainy hand-held footage shot from theatre balconies during performances; two entire boxes documenting my “book within the book,” the one hundred eight photographs that are published winnowed down from the more than two hundred I tracked down and curated from repositories ranging from the National Portrait Gallery to the Archives of American Art to the NYPL to Harvard and the Mozart Atheneum and the Louvre; cassette tapes and dvds of orchestral works, soundtracks, and scores of accompanying music by Copland, Barber, Stravinsky, Schonberg, Persichetti, Horst, and so many others; reams of email correspondence with curators, archivists, composers, dancers, choreographers, authors and scholars worldwide — requesting permissions, forwarding queries, confirming assumptions, praising good writing, updating the long journey from first insight to publication; the backs and forths with my editor and my agent, apologizing for missed phone calls and lapses of decorum (on my part — not theirs), seeking another voice on a lonely isolated writing day that began at dawn and ended at dark; a decade of, by turns, emotional and dispassionate journal entries and constantly-revised and crossed-out to-do lists historicizing my existential doubts, surmises, epiphanies, “why am I doing this?” attacks; clippings from newspaper and magazine reviews and articles citing MG or inspiring me for one reason or another to keep going, references to dance performances in museums and other non-traditional venues — and last but not least, two six hundred page printouts, the first an actual manuscript just for my own record-keeping, and the second the pdf of the “second pass” page by page with copyediting interpolations.

In the last analysis, over and above the two thousand footnotes and acknowledgment thanks to hundreds of people who have contributed to the completion of Martha Graham – When Dance Became Modern – there is the realization that yes, scholarship, diligence, accuracy, and professionalism are essential; but the reader wants and needs a good story.

Time will tell.

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