Thursday, December 4, 2014

Meredith Monk - Songs Of Ascension - Meredith Monk and Vocal Ensemble - Todd Reynolds Quartet - M6, Montclair State University Singers - ECM 2011

Meredith Monk is one of my favorite composers. I hesitate to call her a "modern" or "contemporary"
composer, although clearly she is. Her music and spirit are both ancient and modern at the same time; it is entirely tangible in her art-whether it is film, music, or all kinds of artistic collaborations-and for me it's always a deeply moving experience.

Monk describes her sound as “folk music from another planet,” which I think is perfect, indeed her music is all-around pretty indescribable, always visionary-getting at what listeners have identified as a timeless mix of the ancient and the modern. It's the outgrowth of her early epiphany that the human voice could be treated as a part of the body, a profoundly physical and versatile instrument capable of hitherto uncharted expressive possibilities. The 2008 performance of "Songs of Ascension" is a total wonder and visually arresting (it was performed in a tower conceived by a visual artist, with all of the musicians playing along a tremendous spiral staircase, in the windows, and on the landings. I think Scriabin would be jealous!!). 

ECM says this:
“Songs of Ascension” is a major new recording from composer Meredith Monk and her vocal ensemble. Written in 2008, it is conceived as a continuous composition, a departure from Monk’s earlier collaged or episodic extended works. In recent years Meredith Monk’s been expanding into the worlds of orchestra and string quartet. On “Songs of Ascension” she teams up with a string quartet of New York players well versed in new music. With winds, percussion and two vocal groups added to her already extraordinary singers, this is one of Monk’s most musically ambitious ventures. Voices and instruments are paired and balanced against each other to an extent rare in her music. Inspirations for the work included the Song of Ascents, a group of psalms said to have been sung during pilgrimages, and a timely invitation to perform at an 8-story tower designed by visual artist Ann Hamilton. “Songs of Ascension” finds Monk playing with the musical, sonic, metaphysical and literal connotations of upward movement.

I posted Monk's "Book of Days" soon after I created this blog, and urge everyone to check that out
if you have not (I feel as if many visitors have overlooked it..) as well. 

Some scenes from the performance:


Part 1

Part 2


Johannes R. Becher said...

Mr. Ll. shared this one some time ago. I found it pretty inacessible, specially because of its moaning vocals, much the same as the ones than can be heard in Reich's works. Perhaps I should give it a try again, but this is tough stuff.

Tzadik said...

Hi Johannes. Well I'm not sure who LI is but he/she certainly shares my taste. Monk's music is often an acquired taste, however she has written in many styles and you might appreciate much more, for instance-some of her instrumental output (among others, her Piano works). Also there are short instrumental movements within this composition that are much more "accessible", mostly for string quartet or a combination of strings; perhaps you will find a sort of balance that way..

Johannes R. Becher said...

I think you do know Mr. E. Ll. well ;)

Tzadik said...

E. LI. ?? Johannes, please do not keep me in suspense! Off hand I haven't a clue whom you are referring to.
Is it a fellow blogger? I know before I bought a copy another person did post it on a blog which I eagerly 'leeched' but I haven't a clue who it was, it was a while ago.

This is going to ruin my weekend, and perhaps psychic life if I do not find out ;)

Johannes R. Becher said...

He's one of your fellow explorers... the one owning the key to the music.

Tzadik said...

Ah ok! yes that's where I first got to hear it, as in the whole disc. Now I can rest well this evening -Tz