Radiohead were the opening act. The Icelandic band Sigur Rós played a xylophone made of ballet shoes. And both bands performed below the stage, in the orchestra pit. The occasion was the October 14th world premiere, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, of Split Sides, by the legendary choreographer Merce Cunningham. But the rock & roll highlight of the night was the score composed and played live by the two art-rock combos. “My kids think he’s the coolest guy around,” said New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, introducing Cunningham at the start of the program. “He even got Radiohead here.”
Cunningham used ceremonial throws of dice before the dance to determine the order of music, lights and costumes in the two-part piece. Radiohead lost their roll, so they accompanied the dancers in the first half with a rich son-of-Kid A blend of electronica, radio broadcasts and wordless vocals by Thom Yorke. Sigur Rós used wind-up music boxes and guitar feedback to create an arctic storm of melody and noise that included spoken-word samples of the eighty-four-year-old Cunningham.
This story is from the November 13th, 2003 issue of Rolling Stone.