Meredith Monk Discusses Her Career with NS
Monday, March 1st, 2010
Since the 1960s, Grammy-nominated composer, singer, and filmmaker Meredith Monk has been challenging and evolving music. “She epitomizes the post-war American artist,” said Lang theater Professor Bonnie Marranca. On February 19, Monk came to The New School to speak about her career and to perform.
A fourth-generation musician, Monk played and listened to music from a young age. She struggles, however, with diplopia, an eye condition that causes her to see double. Because of this, she had to use her body to teach herself music and rhythm.
Monk graduated from Sarah Lawrence, where she studied music, dance, and theater. She also explores the voice via breathing, textures, and forms. “The voice uncovers very fundamental energies we don’t,” said Monk.
Monk has an unusual perspective on her work. “I think of my work as a tree,” she said. One branch, she says, is her interdisciplinary work (music, theater, and installations). The other branch is her vocal music.
During her performance she sang several a cappella songs, including “Porch” from her album *Songs from the Hill* and “Click Song #2” from *Volcano Songs*, where Monk wowed the audience as she simultaneously sang and clicked her tongue.
She also performed “Last Song” from *Impermanence*, “The Tale” from *Education of the Girlchild*, and “Gotham Lullaby” from *Dolmen Music*, which Björk has covered. Although lacking in lyrics, her songs were very emotional; one could sense the sadness in “Last Song” and laugh at “The Tale.”
Clips of her installations and site-specific performances were also shown. One of the clips showed her ensemble performing *Songs of Ascension* on a spiral staircase in an eight-story tower. Another clip was her breakthrough piece, *16 Millimeter Earrings*, in which a film was projected on her head.
Afterwards, Monk answered questions and led the audience in a breathing exercise. Each person stood with their feet under their hips, knees bent, and arms out. As they rose and exhaled, they sang “ah” in any note. The result sounded eerie yet beautiful.
It was the perfect example of Monk’s belief that seeing a performance is very individualistic. “Each person in the audience can have their own experience,” she said.
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