Magazine article The New Yorker

Body of Work

Magazine article The New Yorker

Body of Work

Article excerpt

Body of Work

The legacy of the avant-garde artist known as "the topless cellist."

Charlotte Moorman performed John Cage's "26'1.1499" for a String Player" in Chicago in 1969.

Charlotte Moorman was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1933, during the dog days of the Depression. Dark-haired and imaginative, Moorman took up the cello at the age of ten, and for a time it became her chief instrument of expression. In 1951, she was awarded a music scholarship to Centenary College of Louisiana, in Shreveport. After earning a master's degree at the University of Texas, in Austin, she continued her postgraduate studies at Juilliard. One can imagine that Moorman's interest in accreditation had something to do with the times: not many female classical musicians had solo careers back then; they either taught or, if they were lucky enough, played in some orchestra pit. Indeed, in the early sixties, Moorman did play with an orchestra--the American Symphony Orchestra--but she found herself increasingly drawn to New York's avant-garde performance scene. There, she discovered the Fluxus movement, and bonded with such great stars as Carolee Schneemann, whose own body was her instrument.

Moorman took her cello and married it to her body. …

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