Conversations with Meredith Monk – Expanded Edition
Performing Arts Journal Publications
Published on December 20, 2020
This expanded edition of Conversations with Meredith Monk offers a fascinating portrait of the internationally renowned composer, performer, director, and filmmaker, from her early years to the present. The volume, first published in 2014, now includes an eight-page color insert and has been updated to feature discussions of Monk’s latest music-theatre work, Cellular Songs, and a work-in-progress, Indra’s Net, in addition to the recent revival of ATLAS: an opera in three parts at the Los Angeles Philharmonic—a work that the New York Times called “her masterpiece and one of the defining operatic experiments of the 20th century”—and the showing of the remastered film of Monk’s great work Quarry.
The five long conversations that comprise the volume, the latest in PAJ’s “Performance Ideas” series, generate invaluable insights into artistic process, the human voice, interrelationships of time, space, and music, and the complexity of artistic legacies. Monk dives into questions of performance such as: What is a “contemporary” work? and How does an artwork retain its integrity of form over time?
In these deeply engaging conversations, Monk speaks in great detail on her creation of music-theatre works, operas, and films, reflecting on the large-cast theatrical works and the more recent poetically distilled, abstract pieces. In her preface to the new edition, “Performance as a Life Science,” Bonnie Marranca writes: “Now, against the background of life in extremis, it is evident that Monk had already acknowledged both the always unknown future and the resilience of human beings. For decades her body of work has been rooting itself in the recurrent themes of spiritual quest (Songs of Ascension), healing (The Politics of Quiet), compassion (mercy), plague (Book of Days), fragility of life (impermanence), cultural identity (Ellis Island), historical trauma (Quarry), ecology (On Behalf of Nature), and community (Cellular Songs).”
MEMORY GAME is both a look back at a pivotal point in Meredith Monk’s storied career, and a richly layered portrait of how vocal music, under the guidance of an indefatigable master, can play with our expectations in poignant and compelling ways. What emerges is a suite of songs that flows with a remarkable narrative cohesion, stemming in large part from the composer’s willingness to revisit the past with an insatiably curious eye.“The first time that I ever worked with Bang on a Can, it was in the late ’90s,” Monk tells DownBeat magazine in a recent interview. “That was really, in a way, the beginning of this project. It’s exciting to hear these songs again in a new way, with more of an instrumental aspect added onto the vocal.”Teaming up here with her renowned Vocal Ensemble (featuring Theo Bleckmann, Katie Geissinger and Allison Sniffin) and the Bang on a Can All-Stars, Monk explores all-new arrangements of never-before-recorded selections from her award-winning sci-fi opera The Games, as well as new versions of several pieces originally released on Do You Be (1987) and impermanence (2008). The album includes arrangements by Monk, Michael Gordon, David Lang, Julia Wolfe, Bang on a Can All-Stars member Ken Thomson, and Vocal Ensemble member Allison Sniffin.