Deep Song premiered at the Guild Theater in New York in 1937. Set to music by Henry Cowell, the dance was composed in response to the Spanish Civil War. Deep Song was a cry of anguish, an embodiment of Martha Graham’s fears for a world torn apart by man’s inhumanity to man. “The fierce, fighting anguish of Deep Song is as direct and as objective as a shout,” wrote one critic.
According to program notes, “the forms of the dance – its swirls, crawls on the floor, contractions and falls – are kinetic experiences of the human experiences in war. . . It is the anatomy of anguish from tragic events.” The tragedy of Spain is universalized through the choreography. “It is not Spain that we see in her clean impassioned movement; it is the realization that Spain’s tragedy is ours, is the whole world’s tragedy.” The dance disappeared from the repertory in the 1940s, and it was not until 1989 that it was reconstructed by Graham with Terese Capucilli.