A Tribute to Meredith Monk (I)

“Songs from the Hill/Tablet”, “Dolmen Music”

Meredith Monk is a composer, singer, and creator of new opera and music-theater works. Recognized as one of the most unique and influential artists of our time, she is a pioneer in what is now called “extended vocal technique”. Her groundbreaking exploration of the voice as an instrument, as an eloquent language in and of itself, expands the boundaries of musical composition, creating landscapes of sound that unearth feelings, energies, and memories for which there are no words. Over the last six decades, Ms. Monk has been hailed as one of National Public Radio’s 50 Great Voices and “one of America’s coolest composers”. Her numerous awards and honors include a MacArthur Fellowship and Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters by the Republic of France. Recently Monk received three of the highest honors bestowed on a living artist in the United States: induction into the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the 2017 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize and a 2015 National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama. Celebrated internationally, her work has been presented at major venues around the world.

In 1965, Monk began her innovative exploration of the voice as a multifaceted instrument, composing solo pieces for unaccompanied voice and voice and keyboard. In 1978, she formed Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble to further expand her musical textures and forms. Most of her music can be heard on the ECM label, including the GRAMMY-nominated impermanence. Her compositions have also been featured in films by Terrence Malick, Jean-Luc Godard, David Byrne and the Coen Brothers.

Since the early 2000s, Monk has been creating vital new repertoire for orchestra, chamber ensembles, and solo instruments, with recent commissions from the San Francisco Symphony, St. Louis Symphony, Alarm Will Sound, Young People’s Chorus of New York City, and Carnegie Hall where she held the 2014-15 Richard and Barbara Debs Composer’s Chair in conjunction with her 50th Season of creating and performing. A new production of Monk’s opera ATLAS: an opera in three parts (1991), directed by Yuval Sharon, was presented by the Los Angeles Philharmonic in June 2019. Currently Monk is developing Indra’s Net, the third part of a trilogy of music-theater works exploring our interdependent relationship with nature, following the highly acclaimed On Behalf of Nature (2013) and Cellular Songs (2018). Indra’s Net will premiere at Mills College with support from the Hewlett 50 Arts Commission.

Source: Boosey & Hawkes


Meredith (Jane) Monk, (born November 20, 1942, New York City, New York, U.S.), American performance artist, a pioneer in the avant-garde, whose work skillfully integrated diverse performance disciplines and media.

Monk studied piano and eurythmics from an early age. She earned a B.A. in 1964 from Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, New York. From the beginning of her career, Monk was interested in singing, filmmaking, choreography, and acting. All these elements are incorporated into her vast body of work, which she termed “composite theater.” Monk made her debut as a performance artist in 1964, and in 1968 she organized the House, a group devoted to interdisciplinary approaches to the arts. Monk’s experimental nature could be seen in her approach to “singing.” Her vocal music rarely contained recognizable text, as she strove for a sound both primordial and futuristic. To this end she used extended vocal techniques—from conventionally sung notes over a four-octave range to a wide variety of nonstandard performance sounds reminiscent of whining, hiccuping, laughing, and animal-like noises.

Meredith Monk, during her birthday celebration at Le Poisson Rouge, NY, in 2014 / Photo: Sila Blume / Leica D-Lux 4

Monk received an Obie Award for her work in 1972. In 1973 she performed Education of the Girlchild, a work without dialogue that explored movement and stasis; she revived it in 1979 and again in 1991. She was awarded a second Obie in 1976 for the theatre piece Quarry. In 1978 Monk founded the vocal ensemble bearing her name and with which she toured worldwide. In addition to live performances, she and her ensemble made numerous recordings, including Our Lady of Late (1974), Dolmen Music (1981), and Turtle Dreams (1983). Monk’s feature-length film Book of Days (1989) played at the New York Film Festival, and a shorter version aired on television. Her multimedia opera Atlaspremiered in 1991. Her singular style, prolificwork, and long-standing success defined her as at once a pioneer and an institution in the relatively new world of performance art. In 1985 she was honoured with a third Obie Award, for sustained achievement, and in 1995 she received a MacArthur Foundation fellowship.

At the turn of the 21st century, Monk began composing for orchestra, chamber ensembles, and solo instruments. Notable works included Possible Sky (2003), Night (2005), Weave for Two Voices (2010), and Realm Variations(2012). She also continued to create musictheatre pieces—namely, On Behalf of Nature(2013) and Cellular Songs (2018)—and to make such recordings as Impermanence(2008), which was nominated for a Grammy Award, and Monk Mix (2012). The recipient of numerous honours, Monk was the Richard and Barbara Debs Composer’s Chair at Carnegie Hall (2014–15), and she received the National Medal of Arts (2015) from U.S. Pres. Barack Obama.

Source: Britannica

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