Meredith Monk

born on 20/11/1942 in New York City, NY, United States

Meredith Monk

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Meredith Monk

Meredith Jane Monk (born November 20, 1942) is an American composer, performer, director, vocalist, filmmaker, and choreographer. Since the 1960s, Monk has created multi-disciplinary works which combine music, theatre, and dance, recording extensively for ECM Records.[1]

Life and work

Meredith Monk is primarily known for her vocal innovations, including a wide range of extended techniques, which she first developed in her solo performances prior to forming her own ensemble. In December 1961, she appeared at the "Actor's Playhouse" in Greenwich Village (NYC) as a solo dancer in an Off Broadway children's musical theater adaptation of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," entitled "Scrooge" (music and lyrics by Norman Curtis; directed and choreographed by Patricia Taylor Curtis). In 1964, Monk graduated from Sarah Lawrence College after studying with Beverly Schmidt Blossom, and in 1968 she founded The House, a company dedicated to an interdisciplinary approach to performance.

Monk's performances have influenced many artists, including Bruce Nauman, whom she met in San Francisco in 1968. In 1978 Monk formed Meredith Monk and Vocal Ensemble (modelled after similar ensembles of musical colleagues, such as Steve Reich and Philip Glass), to explore new and wider vocal textures and forms, which often were contrasted with minimal instrumental textures. Monk began a long-standing relationship with the Walker Art Center of Minneapolis, which continues to showcase her work to this day. Pieces from this time include Dolmen Music (1979), which also was recorded for her first album released at Manfred Eicher's record label ECM in 1981.

In the 1980s, Monk wrote and directed two films, Ellis Island (1981), and Book of Days (1988), which developed from a single idea; "One day during summer of 1984, as I was sweeping the floor of my house in the country, the image of a young girl (in black and white) and a medieval street in the Jewish community (also in black and white) came to me." Monk tells this account in the liner notes of the ECM-recording. Apart from the film, different versions exist of this piece. Two are for the concert hall, and an album, produced by Meredith Monk and Manfred Eicher, is "a film for the ears."

In the early 1990s, Monk composed an opera called Atlas, which premiered in Houston, Texas in 1991. She has also written pieces for instrumental ensembles and symphony orchestras. Her first symphonic work was Possible Sky (2003). It was followed by Stringsongs (2004) for string quartet, which was commissioned by the Kronos Quartet. In 2005, events were held all over the world in celebration of the 40th anniversary of her career, including a concert in Carnegie Hall featuring Björk, Terry Riley, DJ Spooky (who sampled Monk on his album Drums of Death), Ursula Oppens, Bruce Brubaker, John Zorn, and the new music ensembles Alarm Will Sound and Bang on a Can All-Stars, along with the Pacific Mozart Ensemble.

Honors and legacy

Monk has won numerous awards, including a MacArthur Fellowship. She has been awarded honorary Doctor of Arts degrees from Bard College, the University of the Arts (Philadelphia), the Juilliard School, the San Francisco Art Institute and the Boston Conservatory. In 2007, she received in Italy the Demetrio Stratos International Award for musical experimentation.[2][3]

Her music was used in films by the Coen Brothers (The Big Lebowski, 1998) and Jean-Luc Godard (Nouvelle Vague, 1990 and Notre musique, 2004).

French singer Camille paid an explicit homage to Meredith in her song The Monk (Music Hole, 2008) which beyond its obvious title also reminds in its construction the work of Monk.

Hip hop artist DJ Shadow sampled Dolmen Music on the track "Midnight in a Perfect World" from his 1995 album Endtroducing......

In a recent interview, Monk said that her favourite music includes Brazilian music, especially Caetano Veloso's recordings, the music by Mildred Bailey ("the great jazz singer from the 30s and 40s"), and Bartók's cycle for piano Mikrokosmos.

Personal life

Her partner was the Dutch-born choreographer Mieke van Hoek, who died in 2002.


"In most of my music, theater pieces and films, I try to express a sense of timelessness; of time as a recurring cycle."

--Liner notes of the album Book of Days, ECM New Series (1990)

"I work in between the cracks, where the voice starts dancing, where the body starts singing, where theater becomes cinema."

--Deborah Jowitt (ed.), Meredith Monk (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997)


Instrumental works

  • Paris for solo piano (1973)
  • Acts from under and above Ellis Island for two pianos (1986)
  • Window in 7's for solo piano (1986)
  • Parlour Games for two pianos (1988)
  • Phantom Waltz for two pianos (1990)
  • St. Petersburg Waltz for solo piano (1994)
  • Steppe Music for solo piano (1997)
  • Clarinet Study #4, for Solo Clarinet (1999)
  • Cello Study #1 for Solo Cello and Voice (1999)
  • Trumpet Study #1 for Solo Trumpet (1999)
  • Possible Sky for orchestra and voices (commissioned by Michael Tilson Thomas for the New World Symphony, 2003)
  • Stringsongs for string quartet (commissioned by the Kronos Quartet, 2004)

Vocal works

  • 16 Millimeter Earrings for voice, guitar and tapes (1966)
  • Juice: A Theater Cantata for 85 voices, jaw harp and two violins (1969)
  • Vessel: An Opera Epic for 75 voices, electronic organ, dulcimer and accordion (1971)
  • Our Lady of Late for solo voice and wine glass (1972)
  • Quarry: An Opera for 38 voices, 2 pump organs, 2 soprano recorders, tape (1976)
  • Songs from the Hill for unaccompanied solo voice (1976)
  • Tablet for four voices, piano four hands, two soprano recorders (1976)
  • Dolmen Music for 6 voices, cello, percussion (1979)
  • The Games for 16 voices, synthesizer, keyboards, Flemish Bagpipes, bagpipes, Chinese horn and rauschpfeife (1983)
  • Astronaut Anthem for chorus a cappella (1983)
  • Panda Chant II for chorus a cappella (1984)
  • Book of Days for 25 voices, synthesizer, piano or 7 voices, synthesizer (Chamber Version) (1985) recorded for ECM
  • Scared Song, song for solo voice, synthesizer and piano (1986)
  • I Don't Know, song for solo voice and piano (1986)
  • Atlas: An Opera in Three Parts for 18 voices and chamber orchestra (1991)
  • Three Heavens and Hells for 4 voices (1992)
  • Volcano Songs (Solo) for solo voice, voice with taped voices and piano (1994)
  • Star Trek: Envoy for composing/directing/performing in the Den-Kai/Krikiki Ensemble (1995)
  • The Politics of Quiet for 10 voices, 2 keyboards, horn, violin, bowed psaltery (1996)
  • Magic Frequencies for 6 voices, 2 keyboards, percussion (1999)
  • Eclipse Variations for 4 voices, esraj, sampler, recorded in surround sound, commissioned by Starkland
  • Mercy for 6 voices, 2 keyboards, percussion, multiple woodwinds, violin (2001)
  • When There Were Work Songs for vocal ensemble (2002, commissioned by the Western Wind Vocal Ensemble)
  • Last Song for solo voice and piano (2003)
  • Impermanence for eight voices, piano, keyboard, marimba, vibraphone, percussion, violin, multiple woodwinds, bicycle wheel (2005)
  • Night for chorus and orchestra (1996/2005)
  • Songs of Ascension for vocal ensemble and string quartet (2006, commissioned by the Kronos Quartet, with Ann Hamilton)
  • Weave for solo voices, chorus and orchestra (2010, commissioned by Grand Center Inc and the Los Angeles Master Chorale)


  • Key (Increase Records, 1971 / Lovely Music, 1977 and 1995)
  • Our Lady of Late (Minona Records, 1973 / wergo, 1986)
  • Songs from the Hill/Tablet (wergo, 1979)
  • Dolmen Music (ECM, 1981)
  • Turtle Dreams (ECM, 1983)
  • Do You Be (ECM, 1987)
  • Book of Days (ECM, 1990)
  • Facing North (ECM, 1992)
  • Atlas: An Opera in Three Parts (ECM, 1993)
  • Monk and the Abbess: Music of Hildegard von Bingen and Meredith Monk (RCA, 1995)
  • Volcano Songs (ECM, 1997)
  • mercy (ECM, 2002)
  • Impermanence (ECM, 2008)
  • Beginnings (Tzadik, 2009), compositions from 1966 to 1980
  • Songs of Ascension (ECM, 2011)


  • 1993 The Sensual Nature of Sound: 4 Composers Laurie Anderson, Tania León, Meredith Monk, Pauline Oliveros. Directed by Michael Blackwood.
  • 1983 Four American Composers "Meredith Monk." Directed by Peter Greenaway.
  • 1996 Speaking of Dance: Conversations With Contemporary Masters of American Modern Dance. No. 22: Meredith Monk. American Dance Festival. Directed by Douglas Rosenberg.


  1. [Meredith Monk at All Music Guide Allmusic]
  2. COAST TO COAST MONK (PDF). Retrieved on 2009-03-15.
  3. Meredith Monk: di scena la musica totale (Italian). Articles. (2007-06-02). Retrieved on 2011-08-26.

See also Beverly Schmidt Blossom

External links

  • Meredith Monk's official site
  • Meredith Monk on ECM Records
  • Meredith Monk. Encyclopaedia Britannica.
  • NNDb
  • Meredith Monk. Boosey & Hawkes.
  • Meredith Monk Archive, 1959-2006 Music Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
  • Holland, Bernard (2005-11-08). A Performance Art Pioneer, With Friends. The New York Times.
  • Oteri, Frank J. (2000-04-01). Meredith Monk: Composer First. NewMusicBox.
  • Sandow, Greg (1984-10-30). The Struggle for Form. The Village Voice.
  • Service, Tom (2005-01-25). Kronos Quartet. The Guardian.
  • Sheridan, Molly (2005-11-15). Our Lady of Late. New Music Box.
  • Turner, Bob (November 2005). Meredith Monk: magician of the voice. Common Ground.
  • Meredith Monk in the Video Data Bank
  • Meredith Monk interview
  • Meredith Monk performs Our Lady of Late, for solo voice, wine glass, and percussion, July 23rd, 1975, Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, Naropa Institute, Boulder, Colorado
  • Archive film of Meredith Monk/The House performing Magic Frequencies in 1998 at Jacob's Pillow
This page was last modified 17.06.2013 03:37:03

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