Meredith Monk: A handy CV break-down of one of America’s most distinctive composers
Composer brings new work On Behalf of Nature to 2013 Edinburgh International Festival
This article is from 2013.
Meredith Monk is renowned for works which combine vocal-led music with elements of theatre, dance and performance art. As she has said, ‘I work in between the cracks, where the voice starts dancing, where the body starts singing, where theatre becomes cinema’.
Monk began as a solo performer, before forming her vocal ensemble in 1978. Her music remains predominantly vocal-led, with intricate contrapuntal arrangements which blend medieval plainsong, 20th century minimalism and extended techniques into a timeless form of avant-garde folk ritual. Her staging is equally visionary, with great attention paid to costume, lighting and choreography.
This August’s EIF boasts the European premiere of On Behalf of Nature. A poetic meditation on the environment, this music-theatre piece draws inspiration from the Buddhist notion of realm categories and the nature writing of poet and activist Gary Snyder, taking as its point of departure Monk’s 2012 piece for vocalists and instrumentalists Realm Variations. The night before the first performance, Monk will be discussing the artist’s relationship with the environment with Philip Campbell, editor of Nature magazine.
Monk’s influence has been widespread, with artists such as Björk, Terry Riley and John Zorn paying tribute at a 2005 concert celebrating her forty years in music. In 1996, DJ Shadow sampled the distinctive cello part from 1979’s ‘Dolmen Music’ for his track ‘Midnight In A Perfect World’, while two years later, her vocal piece ‘Walking Music’ was featured in the Coen Brothers’ beloved film The Big Lebowksi.
Meredith Monk, On Behalf of Nature, Royal Lyceum, 16–17 Aug, 8pm; 18 Aug 2.30pm, £10–£30; Conversations, The Hub, 15 Aug, 5pm, £6.