Meredith Monk On Behalf Of Nature

Meredith Monk — On Behalf Of Nature (November 4, 2016)

 Meredith Monk — On Behalf Of Nature (November 4, 2016)  Meredith Monk — On Behalf Of Nature (November 4, 2016)♦ο♦   A pioneer in performance art, who takes an interdisciplinary approach to creativity and has excelled in a variety of forms.
♦ο♦   “I delved into different relationships and possibilities between them; material passed back and forth, dialogues, interlocking phrases, shifts of figure and ground. In some pieces, I emphasized the individuality of each piano, writing for one player as the ‘singer’, the other as the ‘accompaniment’; in other pieces I wanted the two pianos to make one large sound.”  — Meredith Monk
Ξ   Oppens is a concert pianist who dedicated most of her career to performing and helping advance the cause of contemporary keyboard literature.
Performer: Sidney Chen, Ellen Fisher, Katie Geissinger, Bruce Rameker, Allison Sniffin, et al.               © Ξ Meredith Monk in On Behalf of Nature. Ξ Photo credit: Steven Pisano
Birth name: Meredith Jane Monk
Born: November 20, 1942, New York City, New York
Origin: New York, NY
Album release: November 4, 2016
Record Label: ECM 
Duration:     53:55
Genre: Avant~Garde, Classical
Styles: Xylophone, Voices, Modern Composition
01 DarkLight 1     3:27
02 High Realm     1:27
03 Fractal Activity     2:57
04 Environs 1     1:51
05 Eon     2:56
06 Duet With Shifting Ground     5:22
07 Environs 2     0:56
08 Pavement Steps     2:04
09 Evolution      4:40   
10 Ritual Zone     4:08
11 WaterSky Rant     5:48
12 Memory Zone     4:22
13 Environs 3     0:56
14 Harvest     3:19
15 DarkLight 2     3:07
16 High Realm Reprise     1:01
17 Fractal Mirror     1:56
18 Ringing     3:30
19 Spider Web Anthem     3:07
ο   Julieta Cervantes Cover Photo, Photography
ο   Sidney Chen Vocals
ο   Manfred Eicher Producer
ο   James A. Farber Engineer
ο   Ellen Fisher Vocals
ο   Katie Geissinger Vocals
ο   Bohdan Hilash Bird Calls, Clarinet, Clarinet (Bass), Clarinet (Contrabass), Contra~Alto Clarinet, Piccolo, Sopranino Recorder, Whistle
ο   John Hollenbeck Bells, Clarinet (Contrabass), Cuica, Cymbals, Glockenspiel, Marimba, Percussion, Vibraphone
ο   Sascha Kleis Design
ο   Meredith Monk Vocal Ensemble Vocal Ensemble
ο   Meredith Monk Composer, Liner Notes, Vocals
ο   Akihiro Nishimura Assistant
ο   Bruce Rameker Vocals
ο   Laura Sherman Harp
ο   Allison Sniffin French Horn, Keyboards, Piano, Score Preparation, Violin, Vocals
ο   Mok Van Hoek Photography
ο   Babeth Van Loo Photography
Editorial Reviews
♦ο♦   For five decades, vocalist~composer Meredith Monk has explored what she calls primordial utterance, or non~verbal vocal sounds that lay beneath and beyond language, expressing that for which we have no words.
♦ο♦   This exploration has led her to create music that The New Yorker describes as simultaneously visceral and ethereal, raw and rapt, an art that sings, dances and meditates on timeless forces.
♦ο♦   With her latest, multivalent ECM New Series album, Monk aimed to address ecology and climate change, she says: Believing that music speaks more directly than words, I worked to make a piece with a fluid, perceptual field that could expand awareness of what we are in danger of losing. On Behalf of Nature is a meditation on our intimate connection to nature, its inner structures, the fragility of its ecology and our interdependence.
♦ο♦   Voices and instruments have equal weight: sometimes each is heard alone; sometimes they are blended to form a new, mysterious sound; sometimes they are combined to create intricate, layered, yet transparent sonic landscapes.Review
By Seth Colter Walls, NOVEMBER 28 2016 / Score: 8.1
♦ο♦   Meredith Monk’s influence as a singer and composer extends through Björk, Joanna Newsom and beyond. On Behalf of Nature is a plea for ecological awareness with no lectures, just beauty and empathy.
♦ο♦   er her half~century career as a composer and singer, Meredith Monk has refreshed the language of vocal music. She has cultivated steely modes of expression in her top register, and gravely dramatic timbres in the low end. In between those extremes, she possesses a library of stunning, diverse effects that come across as intensely physical. On a recording, Monk’s voice doesn’t enter the listener’s consciousness from some disembodied ether. The music sails directly from the discrete figure at its center.
♦ο♦   The pressed~lip vibrations, throat clicks and beaming yowls of childhood play are celebrated in her singing. And these tricks are also put to use for emotionally varied ends. A tender lullaby might veer into a cathartic silliness. A pulse~driven group chant can collapse into solemn observance. Patterns are present, though mostly for the purpose of being challenged by an unlikely development.
♦ο♦   Occasionally she uses short English phrases to anchor a theme. More often, the vocal production is wordless — though it is no less communicative for that fact. The influence of this style is felt both inside and outside the academy. When listening to Björk, Joanna Newsom, or Kate Soper, you’re dealing with a tradition that stretches back through Monk, who has studied classical and folk forms and found luminous ways to channel them.
♦ο♦   On Behalf of Nature is titled after one of Monk’s recent, wordless stage shows: a meditation on ecological themes, including climate change. Despite that impassioned editorial focus, her resulting suite of songs and motifs avoids coming across like a lecture. And because she always revises the music from a dramatic piece before creating an album, Nature sounds purposeful and complete throughout its hourlong running time. Aside from her vocal troupe, the instrumental forces include ace percussionist John Hollenbeck, harpist Laura Sherman, and the reed~instrument player Bohdan Hilash. (One current singer in Monk’s group, Allison Sniffin, also doubles on piano, violin and French horn.)
♦ο♦   With a spare introductory theme voiced on a Burmese piccolo, opening track “Dark/Light 1” evokes a pre~dawn zone of austere beauty. Later, a brooding bass clarinet is stalked calmly by a vibraphone tones. Then Monk’s voice enters, creating a sense of shamanistic ritual. Her notes could be talismans against danger, or the first melody after a cataclysmic event. Gradually, her sound gives way to that of a male voice, for a short stretch, before the the full vocal ensemble enters with gleaming new harmonies. In moving from a vulnerable, solo state to a zone of greater security and community, the music etches its broad narrative.
♦ο♦   Throughout Nature, the composer’s graceful use of diverse sonic phenomena amounts to a plea for biodiversity. This argument works via metaphor, instead of through the language of the stump speech. Rich rounds of vocal writing suggest organic growth processes, on “Fractal Activity.” The murmurs of “Environs 1” sound like the byproduct of a busy hive. Then there are the serene glances at beauty, as in the clarinet, vibraphone and French horn feature “Eon.” And you can understand why Monk rejects the “minimalist” label during a movement like “Duet with Shifting Ground” — where blocks of seemingly stable harmony are interrupted by prickly parts for violin and percussion.
♦ο♦   Surprises keep coming, without ruining the charming underlying vibe. Strange string lines sneak up on the vocalists, during the otherwise imperturbable “Evolution.” Unexpected rhythmic stresses make “Pavement Steps” into an unlikely dance number. Occasionally, Monk’s hooks seem to be present merely so that they can be upended. But thanks to the palindrome~like “arch form” of the piece, all these feints and stylistic burrows eventually feel unified, when early motifs reappear in slightly adapted form, toward the close of the piece.
♦ο♦   At 74, Monk’s voice doesn’t have quite the otherworldly pliability captured on vintage recordings like Do You Be. Yet she is utterly commanding during this album’s centerpiece, “Water/Sky Rant.” Here, Monk inhabits the role of a woman petitioning the heavens for a downpour. Harp arpeggios support the initial entreaties; an optimistic clarinet tries to help make the sale. Then, a shift in the harmony shows us that the sky is still parched. Monk’s voice momentarily sounds defeated, tinny. Then she unleashes a show~stopping “rant,” full of the desperate, throaty extended~techniques that this singer has been pioneering ever since Julius Eastman was a member of her vocal ensemble.
♦ο♦   Of late, Monk has started receiving more invitations to write for orchestras and string quartets. In her liner notes to Nature, it is acknowledged that “the voices and instruments have equal weight” this time — a state of play that might startle those who think of her talent in narrower terms. Still, she’s always been more than one of the world’s great singers. Some of Monk’s best pieces, like the 1991 opera Atlas, have also boasted dazzling instrumental writing. Her vocal instrument remains the envy of singers fifty years her junior. But on Nature, the uniqueness of her compositional vision is just as impressive.  ♦ο♦
Kate Molleson, Thursday 20 October 2016 15.30 BST / Score: ****
♦ο♦   “I work in between the cracks,” says vocalist/composer/performance artist Meredith Monk, “where the voice starts dancing, the body starts singing, the theatre becomes cinema.” In a way, everything she does is about ecology — that interconnectedness; those wild vocal noises — and On Behalf of Nature is a treatise without text, an outcry without words. She wants the work: “to expand our awareness of what we are in danger of losing”, and she does that by making music that sounds as if it comes from the earth, feet planted in the mud, voices erupting and gusting and keening. As a live show its physical gestures were a bit stilted and obscure; for me it’s more articulate as music alone. And though Monk’s incredible technical range is going, the softer stuff is still enthrallingly playful and ritualistic. Sometimes it feels weird being a bystander to her music: this kind of elemental rite should involve us all.  ♦ο♦
By Charles T. Downey May 5, 2013
♦ο♦   If nature were to rise up and speak in defense of itself, its voice might sound like a Meredith Monk theater piece. That was the goal of Monk’s new work, “On Behalf of Nature,” presented at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center on Saturday night. The path~forging choreographer~composer~artist created the piece — theater without words, dance with voice — to embody “nonhuman entities” communicating through her as a spokesperson.
♦ο♦   Monk is wise to prefer abstraction over narrative, aura over character, symbolism over clear meaning, which allows the viewer to map her work onto his or her own thoughts and perceptions. Various ideas arose in my mind in reaction to the movements of Monk and seven collaborators, three of whom also played the array of instruments to one side of the stage: tree~branch arms waving in the wind, ants marching in rows, aboriginal dances both anxious and joyously whoop~filled, a couple lost in admiration of an open vista, waves crashing on a shore.
♦ο♦   Only when she used video — to cover the change to white, transfigured costumes — did the work become too literal, focused on a series of images like those in National Geographic. The theme of recycling, seen most notably in the costumes made by Yoshio Yabara from the old clothing of the performers, was also a bit heavy~handed.
♦ο♦   Sounds of wood flute, clarinet and other reeds, lots of unusual percussion — such as the space~age sound of bowed flexatone — and even French horn enlivened Monk’s style of quasi~minimalist repeated chords, punctuated by sections for voices only or for movement performed in silence. Particularly memorable tableaux included a spellbinding vocal section, beginning with a seated couple on a long, intertwined “oo” vowel, joined by offstage voices and instruments in a hanging tapestry of sound. The closing image was of rings suspended on silvery threads, which the dancers had just used to ring bells above, left swinging on the empty stage.
♦ο♦   Downey is a freelance writer.  ♦ο♦
ο   Key (Increase Records, 1971 / Lovely Music, 1977 and 1995)
ο   Our Lady of Late (Minona Records, 1973 / wergo, 1986)
ο   Songs from the Hill/Tablet (wergo, 1979)
ο   Dolmen Music (ECM, 1981)
ο   Turtle Dreams (ECM, 1983)
ο   Do You Be (ECM, 1987)
ο   Book of Days (ECM, 1990)
ο   Facing North (ECM, 1992)
ο   Atlas: An Opera in Three Parts (ECM, 1993)
ο   Volcano Songs (ECM, 1997)
ο   Mercy (ECM, 2002)
ο   Impermanence (ECM, 2008)
ο   Beginnings (Tzadik, 2009), compositions from 1966 to 1980
ο   Songs of Ascension (ECM, 2011)
ο   Piano Songs (ECM, 2014)
ο   On Behalf Of Nature (ECM, 2016)♦ο♦♦ο♦♦ο♦♦ο♦♦ο♦♦ο♦♦ο♦♦ο♦♦ο♦♦ο♦♦ο♦♦ο♦♦ο♦♦ο♦♦ο♦♦ο♦♦ο♦♦ο♦♦ο♦♦ο♦♦ο♦♦ο♦♦ο♦♦ο

Meredith Monk On Behalf Of Nature


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