|"Monk's vision is about wholeness and continuity, in art and in life . . . She makes us aware of the submerged connections between islands of difference."
Meredith Monk has startled and enthralled audiences since the early 1960s. Her visionary work as composer, playwright, choreographer, filmmaker, singer, and dancer has helped to define the American avant garde and established her as arned numerous honors and awardsincluding the culminating honor of a MacArthur fellowship in 1995. Her career spans three decades of American avant-garde performance and establishes her as one of the great treasures of contemporary American culture.
With other radical artists of the era, Monk pioneered the use of multi-media in performance, and she continues to experiment with new technologies and materials to create powerful images in her work. Inspired by cultures where performance is considered a spiritual discipline with healing and transformative power, she has sought to re-establish the unity that underlies music, theatre, and dance.
"I work in between the cracks, where the voice starts dancing, where the body starts singing, where theater becomes cinema.
Whether presenting epics like Quarry (1975) and her more recent opera Atlas (1991), small music theater pieces like The Plateau Series (1978) and Facing North (1990), or solo vocal recitals, Monk remains firmly situated in the bardic tradition. Her forms may be wholly contemporary, but her images, her voices, and her themes resonate with the power of myth and legend.
The voice has always been at the center of Meredith Monk’s work. A pioneer in what is now called extended vocal technique, Monk has dazzled, startled, provoked and delighted audiences with her visionary work. Since 1965, Monk has been composing music for the voice as a multi-faceted instrument, expanding the boundaries of traditional vocal music.
A pioneer in what is now called “extended vocal technique” and “interdisciplinary performance,” Monk creates works that thrive at the intersection of music and movement, image and object, light and sound in an effort to discover and weave together new modes of perception. Her ground breaking 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 we have no words.
“Its most striking feature is the unearthly form of primal song that Monk has evolved: strings of repeated syllables that never form words, intoned in a voice that slides from the guttural to the angelically pure. Monk calls her work an opera, perhaps because of…the primacy of music among its elements; I’d call it an incantation.”
“A composer, singer and theater artist for whom experimentation has led to wondrous discovery, Monk conjures up a spectrum of colorful and evocative sounds from her one-of-a-kind vocal instrument. The results are haunting, poignant, terrifying and sometimes screamingly funny…Her concert, the opening event…introduced a musician of boundless imagination and vision. Both alone and with her Vocal Ensemble, she took the audience into enchanting, compassionate and disturbing worlds…the shadings, effects and expressive elements captured the listener’s attentions and never let go.”
“What you might expect if Johann Strauss were a member of Talking Heads…a kind of Gregorian doo-wop.”
Since graduating Sarah Lawrence College in 1964, Monk has received numerous awards throughout her career, including the prestigious MacArthur "Genius" Award in 1995, two Guggenheim Fellowships, a Brandeis Creative Arts Award, three "Obies" (including an award for Sustained Achievement), two Villager Awards, a "Bessie" for Sustained Creative Achievement, the 1986 National Music Theatre Award, sixteen ASCAP Awards for Musical Composition and the 1992 Dance Magazine Award. She holds honorary Doctor of Arts degrees from Bard College, the University of the Arts, The Julliard School, the San Francisco Art Institute and the Boston Conservatory.
Her recordings Dolmen Music (ECM New Series) and Our Lady of Late: The Vanguard Tapes (Wergo) were honored with the German Critics Prize for Best Records of 1981 and 1986. Her music has been heard in numerous films, including La Nouvelle Vague by Jean-Luc Godard and The Big Lebowski by Joel and Ethan Coen. A new publishing relationship with Boosey & Hawkes makes Meredith Monk's music available to a wider public for the first time.
In 1968 Ms. Monk founded The House, a company dedicated to an interdisciplinary approach to performance. In 1978 she formed Meredith Monk and Vocal Ensemble to expand her musical textures and forms. She has made more than a dozen recordings, most of which are on the ECM New Series label. Her most recent recording mercy was released in October 2002. Her music has been performed by numerous soloists and groups including The Chorus of the San Francisco Symphony, Musica Sacra, The Pacific Mozart Ensemble, Double Edge, and Bang On A Can All-Stars, among others.
Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble consists of some of the finest and most adventurous singer/performers active in new music. The critically acclaimed and award-winning Ensemble has performed on numerous recordings of Monk’s compositions on the ECM New Music Series label.
Her latest music theatre work, mercy, a collaboration with visual artist, Ann Hamilton, premiered at the American Dance Festival in July 2001. Her first orchestra piece ‘Possible Sky’ commissioned by Michael Tilson Thomas for the New World Symphony, premiered in April 2003 in Miami. Current projects include a new work for the Western Wind Vocal Ensemble; and the Kronos Quartet.
"Meredith Monk, avant-garde sorceress of offstage theater, has choreographed such inimitable performances as a pageant at the Guggenheim, a specatacle in a parking lot, and an epic tale at Ellis Island; a dancer-choreographer on site, 'working between the cracks . . . where theater becomes cinema.'."