Saturday, February 12, 2005

Music by Clifford Vaughan

Lately, I have been wondering if there are any films or recordings of Denishawn from the period Louise Brooks was a member of the dance company. I have also been exploring the music of  the dance company - the music played while Denishawn danced. . . . This week, I acquired a somewhat obscure CD entitledMusic by Clifford Vaughan. I have listened to it once, and like it a good deal. The disc features work by Vaughan (1893 - 1987), a now little known musician who had a long career as composer, pianist, organist and conductor. (Issued on the Cambria label in 1997, this disc may be out of print. After some searching, I was able to purchase a second-hand copy online.)

What brought my attention to this recording were eight short works on the disc entitled "Oriental Translations for Denishawn." As it turns out, in 1925, a year after Louise Brooks left Denishawn, Ruth St. Denis engaged Clifford Vaughan as musical director of the dance company. (Vaughan replaced Louis Horst, who reunited with Martha Graham.) The composer accompanied Denishawn on their triumphant, twenty-month tour of Asia, Canada, and the United States. And while on tour, he absorbed the musical traditions of Japan, China, India, Burma, Java, Ceylon and other cultures. As a result, Vaughan composed the "Oriental Translations for Denishawn." (Included among them is "White Jade," which would become one of Ruth St. Denis' most famous solos.)

The recordings of "Oriental Translations for Denishawn" included on Music by Clifford Vaughan date to 1941, and were performed by the Vaughan Ensemble conducted by the composer. They are the most direct musical link to Denishawn (in the form of audio recordings) I have been able to find.

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