Meredith Monk A VOICE IN MOTION.I NEVER THINK I AM A NOUN; I always feel like I'm a verb," says Meredith Monk, cryptically, when I ask if she thinks of herself as a dancer who writes music or a composer who used to dance. I finally catch up with her by phone in Budapest as she sweeps through a tour of Russia and Eastern Europe Eastern Europe
The countries of eastern Europe, especially those that were allied with the USSR in the Warsaw Pact, which was established in 1955 and dissolved in 1991. . "I've always fought against being categorized. I think everything feeds everything else."  Monk's one-of-a-kind multimedia stage works--with Monk, now 58, writing and performing the music and choreographing the action--over the last three decades have won her a devoted avant-garde following. Her latest work, mercy, a large-scale collaboration with sculptor Ann Hamilton Ann Hamilton (born June 22, 1956, Lima, Ohio) is a contemporary American artist best known for her installations, textile art, and sculptures, but is also known to work with video and video installation. , premieres July 19 at the American Dance Festival The American Dance Festival is a six-week summer festival of modern dance performances, and a school for dance currently held at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. in Durham, North Carolina Durham is a city in the U.S. state of North Carolina. It is the county seat of Durham CountyGR6 and is the fourth-largest city in the state by population. .
Monk has been embraced by the worlds of dance and music alike. At Sarah Lawrence College Sarah Lawrence College, at Bronxville, N.Y.; primarily for women; chartered 1926, opened 1928 as Sarah Lawrence College for Women; renamed 1947. It is noted for its creative arts program. , she concentrated in both fields under teachers Ruth Lloyd and Bessie Schonberg, respectively. Both women encouraged her creativity. "I don't think my life would be the same without the blessing of those two guides," she says.
Her first artistic discipline was music. "I just sang a concert in Russia," she bubbles. "My mother's father was a singer in Russia, so [the experience] was just an amazing thing!" Coming from a musical family (her mother was also a noted singer who had a career singing on radio), she studied piano from the age of 3. Her teacher eschewed the popular John Thompson John Thompson is the name of:
To overcome difficulty with physical coordination, which was caused by a visual dysfunction, she studied the Dalcroze system of eurhythmic training. "Usually, what happens is, kids learn music through movement, dancing, and catching balls in rhythm," Monk says. "Most people were learning music through movement, but I was learning movement through music. Movement and music are so unified for me.' In high school Monk was already composing piano pieces.
Nowadays, Monk is primarily a vocal composer, although her music often deploys conventional instruments, from piano to Jew's harp. Her seminal musical works use what are called extended vocal techniques, such as overtone overtone
In acoustics, a faint higher tone contained within almost any musical tone. A body producing a musical pitch—such as a taut string or a column of air within the tubular body of a wind instrument—vibrates not only as a unit but simultaneously also in and throat singing, yodeling yo·del
v. yo·deled or yo·delled, yo·del·ing or yo·del·ling, yo·dels
To sing so that the voice fluctuates rapidly between the normal chest voice and a falsetto.
v.tr. , keening, percussive per·cus·sive
Of, relating to, or characterized by percussion.
per·cussive·ly adv. sounds, and micro-tonality. Pitches are precisely notated. Her own voice is an instrument of enormous textural and dynamic versatility, in addition to possessing a three-octave-plus range.
The music of non-Euro-American cultures has been a big influence on Monk's work. Her first instrument was herself, but later she transferred her style to other single voices and even choruses. She has often written in an invented language, most famously in the opera Atlas, which was commissioned and premiered by the Houston Grand Opera The Houston Grand Opera (HGO) is a Houston, Texas-based opera company. It was founded in 1955. David Gockley was its longtime general director, serving 33 years from 1972 to 2005 before moving to the San Francisco Opera on January 1, 2006. in 1991.
Still, she's never far from her other passion, dancing. "When I do a solo vocal concert, there's a strong gestural element in it," Monk says. "Even if I'm standing in one place, I feel like my voice is dancing. I think of the voice as a physical, kinetic instrument."
ALTHOUGH TECHNICAL MOVEMENT was not her forte, Monk grew to love dancing through her Dalcroze study. Another mentor, dance teacher Ernestine Stodell, encouraged her creativity. "I could always improvise, and I had a lot of ideas and a lot of imagination. So I think that my physical limitations became a catalyst for finding my own vocabulary. I had to find a very idiosyncratic id·i·o·syn·cra·sy
n. pl. id·i·o·syn·cra·sies
1. A structural or behavioral characteristic peculiar to an individual or group.
2. A physiological or temperamental peculiarity.
3. movement style.
"Then I had the revelation around 1965 of singing---doing my own singing--that idea of exploring my own instrument: seeing all the things it could do, stretching the range, combining male and female within a voice, and so forth. By applying what I had come from in dance to my voice, I found I had a much more virtuosic instrument as a singer. But I would never have gotten to that place if dance hadn't been--as it continues to be--a part of my life. It gave me that approach of how to work with your own instrument that we all learn as dancers and choreographers."
Monk's work has long been technology-friendly, and her newest piece, mercy, continues that trend. While collaborator Hamilton insists. "It's very minimal in a lot of ways," she also says mercy--with two onstage musicians and up to seven dancer-singers--will include some high-tech touches. The dancers will carry tiny, battery-powered video cameras in their mouths, with the video feed projected onto a screen for the audience. Also, giant soap films will be created on ropes hung from the fly-loft, with lights then projected onto them. [In devising this facet of mercy, Hamilton used the research of Maarten Rutgers, an assistant professor of physics at Ohio State University Ohio State University, main campus at Columbus; land-grant and state supported; coeducational; chartered 1870, opened 1873 as Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College, renamed 1878. There are also campuses at Lima, Mansfield, Marion, and Newark. , who has created long-lasting soap films that are several stories high. For photos, see the Web site www.physics.ohio-state.edu.] Most of the action in the hourlong performance will take place onstage, Hamilton says, though "We're planning a couple of parts that will use the whole auditorium in some way."
In preparing mercy, Monk and Hamilton have pored over accounts of mercy--and its absence--throughout history. However, Hamilton--who resists stating explicitly what the work is "about"--says, "We're not making a piece about [the massacres in] Rwanda or the Holocaust." Audiences across the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. will get a chance to make up their own minds: After its premiere, the work will be staged in Los Angeles Los Angeles (lôs ăn`jələs, lŏs, ăn`jəlēz'), city (1990 pop. 3,485,398), seat of Los Angeles co., S Calif.; inc. 1850. , Miami, Chicago, and other stops (see "Meredith Monk in performance," below). In part because mercy will be staged in theaters of varying sizes and capabilities, Hamilton says, "It almost has to be the kind of piece that comes out of a suitcase."
The "homemade" look of Monk's art has stirred controversy. "We're purposely not doing a virtuosi kind of movement. It's more primal, not striving for that Western European tradition of line in space and geometry," she says, "It's more an axial idea of the body. When we did The Politics of Quiet  the first time in Copenhagen, people really hated the folk dance folk dance, primitive, tribal, or ethnic form of the dance, sometimes the survival of some ancient ceremony or festival. The term is used also to include characteristic national dances, country dances, and figure dances in costume to folk tunes. ; they said, `Some of these people are not dancers!' To me, the way they did the movement was so authentic! The idea of a folk dance is that everyone in the village can do it.
"It's the same with the singing: I really try to affirm and emphasize each person's vocal qualities." But the deceptively unpolished sound of her music, which gives it its unique character, is in reality very sophisticated. "You really have to have good intonation and a strong ear for rhythms," she affirms. "I taught Dolmen dolmen (dŏl`mĕn, dōl–) [Breton,=stone table], burial chamber consisting of two or more upright stone slabs supporting a capstone or table, typical of the Neolithic period in Europe. See megalithic monuments. Music to six singers at Houston Grand Opera, and they said, `You want to hear all the places that we've been taught to cover up. We've been taught to smooth over everything, and that's exactly what you want to hear in our voices!'"
Aficionados of various disciplines have embraced her works. But, she declares, "I feel that the dance audience is the most advanced, spiritually and emotionally. Maybe, because my work is so nonverbal, the dance audience can read it; they understand it's a kind of poetic form."
Who are some of her favorite composers? "I like all kinds of music. One of my favorites is Caetano Veloso, a Brazilian popular singer; his music is amazing! Julia Wolfe Julia Wolfe (born December 18, 1958) is an American composer. She was born in Philadelphia and works in New York. Wolfe's music is rhythmically vigorous, assertive, and often clangorously dissonant. , one of the Bang on a Can Bang on a Can is a multi-faceted musical organization based in New York City. It was founded in 1987 by three American composers who remain its artistic directors: Julia Wolfe, David Lang, and Michael Gordon. people, is a wonderful composer, really strong. I like Arvo Part, the Estonian composer, and I still love some of the classical guys from the twentieth century, like Stravinsky and Bartok.
"In the classical music world, the walls are harder to break down, so it's taken me quite a while. I've been commissioned by Michael Tilson Thomas Michael Tilson Thomas (b. December 21, 1944), aka MTT, is an American conductor, pianist and composer who directs the San Francisco Symphony. Biography
Family and education to write my first orchestra piece for the New World Symphony," Monk says, adding, "It's daunting daunt
tr.v. daunt·ed, daunt·ing, daunts
To abate the courage of; discourage. See Synonyms at dismay.
[Middle English daunten, from Old French danter, from Latin , and it will probably take me about five years!"
Meredith Monk in performance: 2001 Jun 25-30 Residency at Pine Lake, Hartwick College--Oneonta, NY Jul 28 Solo concert--Montpellier, France Oct 5 With vocal ensemble, Cleveland Museum of Art-- Cleveland, OH Oct 28-31 Solo concert, residency and workshops, John Scott Irish Modern Dance Theatre--Dublin, Ireland Performances of mercy Jul 19-21 World premiere, American Dance Festival--Durham, NC Oct 12 Wexner Center for the Arts--Columbus, OH Oct 16 Hall Auditorium, Miami University--Oxford, OH Oct 18-20 Palmer Auditorium, Connecticut College--New London, CT 2002 Feb 14 Royce Hall, University of California--Los Angeles, CA Feb 22-23 Walker Arts Center--Minneapolis, MN Mar 1-2 Athenaeum Theatre--Chicago, IL Mar 6 Gusman Center--Miami, FL
Meredith Monk on video and CD, available through meredithmonk.org:
Book of Days (1988)--b/w & color, 74 minutes, directed by Meredith Monk
Ellis Island (1981)--b/w & color, 28 minutes, directed by Meredith Monk
Meredith Monk (1983)--color, 60 minutes, directed by Peter Greenaway
Paris (1982)--color, 26 minutes, directed by Mark Lowry and Kathryn Escher
16-Millimeter Earrings (1980)--color, 25 minutes, directed by Robert Withers withers
the region over the backline where the neck joins the thorax and where the dorsal margins of the scapulae lie just below the skin.
see fistulous withers.
Turtle Dreams (Waltz) (1983)--color, 27 minutes, directed by Ping Chong
On Compact Disc
Atlas: An Opera in Three Parts--ECM New Series, CD 289 437 773-2
Book of Days--ECM New Series, CD 839 624-2
Candy Bullets and Moon on Better an Old Demon Than a New God--Giorno Poetry Systems, GPS 033
Dolmen Music--ECM New Series, CD 825 459-2
Do You Be--ECM New Series, CD 422 831 782-2
Facing North--ECM New Series, CD 437 439-2
Key--Lovely Music, Ltd., LML LML - 1. Lazy ML.
A lazy, purely functional variant of ML designed by Thomas Johnson and Lennart Augustsson at the Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden in 1984. LML is implemented on the G-machine, and was used to implement the first Haskell B compiler. 1051
Monk and the Abbess: The Music of Meredith Monk and Hildegard von Bingen--BMG/Catalyst, 09026-68329-2
Our Lady of Late: The Vanguard Tapes--Wergo Records, SM 1058
Phantom Waltz and Ellis Island on U.S. Choice--CRI, CD 637
Return to Earth on Of Eternal Light--BMG/Catalyst, CD 09026-61822-2
Songs From the Hill--Wergo Records, SM 1022
Turtle Dreams--ECM New Series, CD 422 811 547-2
Volcano Songs--ECM New Series, CD 289 453 539-2
Gus Solomons jr is a longtime contributor to Dance Magazine. He choreographs and dances widely, but especially in Paradigm, the company that he shares with Carmen Carmen
throws over lover for another. [Fr. Lit.: Carmen; Fr. Opera: Bizet, Carmen, Westerman, 189–190]
See : Faithlessness
the cards repeatedly spell her death. [Fr. de Lavallade and Dudley Williams. He also teaches at New York University New York University, mainly in New York City; coeducational; chartered 1831, opened 1832 as the Univ. of the City of New York, renamed 1896. It comprises 13 schools and colleges, maintaining 4 main centers (including the Medical Center) in the city, as well as the .