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Monk, Meredith

Meredith Monk

Since the 1960s, American performing artist Meredith Monk (born 1942) has earned renown as a composer, singer, dancer, choreographer, filmmaker and critic. Although trained originally as a dancer, she pioneered the multi-textured extended vocal technique and her vocal compositions and performances are known for their emphasis on sounds, syllables and invented language. Monk has received numerous prestigious awards, including a McArthur Foundation "genius" grant. In 2004, the Danspace Project and the House Foundation for the Arts honored Monk's 40-year career at St. Mark's Church in New York.

Monk was born on November 20, 1942, in Lima, Peru, to Theodore Glenn Monk and Audrey Zellman. Her mother, a pop singer who performed as Audrey Marsh and was a vocalist in radio commercials for Muriel cigars, was performing in Peru when she was born. Monk was raised in New York until age seven and then in Stamford, Connecticut. The family's musical talent covers several generations. Monk's great-grandfather was a cantor in a Moscow synagogue and her grandparents founded the Zellman Conservatory of Music in Harlem. Monk was exposed to music and dance at an early age. She began piano lessons at age three with a teacher who shunned traditional lessons and instead introduced her to such composers as Dmitry Kabalevsky, Igor Stravinsky and Bela Bartok. "Much of my early childhood was spent in radio control rooms, watching and listening to my mother sing jingles for soap operas, or ballads and swing tunes for radio variety shows," Monk recalled in a 1999 essay for the New York Times. "I remember hot summer nights, sitting in the corner of a huge studio while men in undershirts sweated as they played their saxes, violins and trombones, and the singers, with their backs to me, crooned the same eight bars over and over before the actual recording session."

To improve her daughter's physical coordination, which was hindered by a visual problem, Monk's mother enrolled her in Delcroze eurhythmic classes. The courses, which taught movement through music, profoundly affected Monk. "Usually, what happens is, kids learn music through movement, dancing, and catching balls in rhythm," Monk told Gus Solomons, Jr., in a 2001 interview for Dance Magazine. "Most people were learning music through movement, but I was learning movement through music. Movement and music are so unified for me." Monk began studying ballet at age eight and composing piano pieces while still in high school. She attended Sarah Lawrence College, near New York City, where she continued her classical dance studies and also studied modern dance with Bessie Schoenberg. Courses in music for dance with Ruth Lloyd greatly influenced her.

Paired Dance and Voice

Upon graduating from Sarah Lawrence with a degree in dance in 1964, Monk joined New York's Judson Church group, a well-known downtown avant-garde ensemble. She eventually developed a three-octave range and pioneered a vocal approach called "extended vocal technique," which incorporates overtone, throat singing, yodeling, keening, percussive sounds and micro-tonality. "[I] had a 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," Monk told Solomon. "By applying what I had come from in dance to my voice, I found I had a much more virtuosic instrument as a singer." Two of Monk's best-known pieces composed for the Judson Church ensemble, both from 1966, are "Duet with Cat's Scream and Locomotive," a collaboration with Kenneth King, and "16-Millimeter Earrings." Both are interdisciplinary pieces emphasizing communication themes. "Duet," based on the interactions between a man and a woman, employed the sounds of a roaring engine and a howling cat, while "Earrings" used props, film and a recording of Monk's own voice repeating the word "nota."

Monk founded her own company, The House, which emphasized interdisciplinary works, in 1968, and the Meredith Monk Dance Ensemble as well as a second group, Vocal Ensemble, 10 years later. During this time, she became known both for her defiance of easy categorization and her nontraditional approach to performance. "I think of myself as a verb, not a noun," Monk told the Chicago Tribune's Sid Smith in 1996. "I compose. I do movement. I deliver text. And, depending on the form I'm working in, I orchestrate. Another way to put it is I make a mosaic. I lay down tiles and make an overall configuration from those strands." Monk's performances typically focused less on technical skill than on raw energy and creativity, which riled some audiences and critics. "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. It's more an axial idea of the body," she told Solomon. "When we did 'The Politics of Quiet' [1996] the first time in Copenhagen, people really hated the folk dance; 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."

Rock and roll music largely influenced her approach to composition and performance, Monk said in her 1999 New York Times essay. "Rock-and-roll was also a strong presence for me and for many other composers at that time, reminding us to go back to the heartbeat, raw energy, blood, fearlessness, thrust," she wrote. "I was very much alone in those early experiments, trying to make my voice a conduit for the raw, essential vocal impulses that I was exploring and then shaping into pieces. Yet I was encouraged by my jazz and rock musician friends, who recognized in those first relentless songs the beginnings of an authentic musical sensibility."

Unconventional Performances

Monk also staged her pieces unusually. For example, "Juice: A Theatre Cantata," a 1969 piece, was staged in installments, beginning with a woman riding a horse down Fifth Avenue in New York, followed by 85 singers playing Jew's harps along the Guggenheim Museum's spiraling ramps and performances in front of paintings by Roy Lichtenstein. A second installment took place three weeks later in a theater on the campus of Barnard College and a third installment in Monk's loft. A 1971 piece, "Vessel: An Opera Epic," which sets the story of Joan of Arc in modern-day New York, began in Monk's loft, then took performers by bus to The Performing Garage performance space and concluded in a parking garage. Autobiographical elements entered Monk's work as well. One early piece, "Education of the Girlchild," featured Monk transforming from an old woman back into a small child. The 1976 opera "Quarry," contained childhood memories and referred to Monk's Polish and Russian Jewish ancestors.

By the late 1970s, Monk had begun to incorporate film into her work. "Ellis Island," the film sequence to the 1979 opera "Recent Ruins," which depicted archeologists of the future excavating New York, appeared on its own on the Public Broadcasting System in the United States as well as on European television. The film won a CINE Golden Eagle in 1982. Monk also created a feature-length film, Book of Days, in 1989, that was set in the fourteenth century, using that period in time as a metaphor for the modern world.

In 1985, Monk began practicing Shambhala meditation, which is associated with Tibetan Buddhism. The ritual has impacted both her approach to composition and her interactions with performers. In a 1998 interview with Gia Kourlas for Dance Magazine, Monk explained that she hoped her compositions and performances, too, were spiritual journeys. "It's a quest of trying to offer another kind of experience for people who are bombarded and who live in a world that has a lot of speed," she said. "In a sense, it's thinking of time as timelessness rather than being a mirror of the particular society that we live in. I realized that when you offer a mirror, people go home and don't have anything to work with because, in a sense, we all know what the problem is. What would happen if you showed a different kind of behavior, or if you offered a place for people to relax that part of their minds, to come out feeling a sense of revitalization and awakeness? I think, in both voice and movement, that you really can experience a depth of emotional experience. That you might want to demand more in your life."

Appreciated as an Artist

In 1991, the Houston Grand Opera commissioned a full-length piece from Monk. Employing wordless syllables in lieu of almost any text, Atlas centers on a small girl who grows up to become an explorer. In fairy-tale style, the girl visits farming communities, forests, a wilderness filled with icy demons, a desert and a joyful spiritual realm. The opera concludes with the explorer sitting at a table sipping a cup of coffee.

Amid a frenzied modern pace, Monk has continued to strive for a more relaxed, transformative tenor to her work. "Every piece is a journey into the unknown," she told Deirdre Mulrooney of the Irish Times in 2001. "I think that's really important in our world, because everybody wants to know what something is going to be before it's done. The business world people want to know how long is it going to be, what's the name of it, and what's your tech requirement two years in advance." Monk said she sees her job as resisting such demands. "What is really beautiful about making art is not giving in to that at all," she told Mulrooney. "And sometimes in that process, making it incredibly uncomfortable by allowing yourself to hang out in the unknown. And you really don't know. You have some clues and you keep following them; it's a very intuitive thing. Discovery is what, to me, makes everything worthwhile—as opposed to being a product-maker."

In response to this impetus, Monk created her 1999 touring work, "A Celebration Service." The piece served as a retrospective of sorts on Monk's long career, incorporating both old and new material, along with a range of spoken texts. Monk told the Christian Science Monitor's Karen Campbell in 1999 that the piece was, in part, a reaction to the frantic pace of contemporary culture. "I had been wondering how to make a form that offers a sense of sacred space. The community, the communion experience is still very valuable. I think it's nice to offer people a space in time where they can let go of the discursive yakety-yak that's going on in the mind all the time," she said.

Monk celebrated her 40th year as a professional artist in 2004. That year, the Danspace Project and the House Foundation for the Arts staged a weekend-long anniversary festival and tribute to her work at St. Mark's Church and Monk performed a four-and-a-half hour concert at Carnegie Hall featuring several well known contemporary avant-garde artists, including DJ Spooky, John Zorn, the Bang on a Can All-Stars and Björk. Several years earlier, Kourlas explained Monk's enduring appeal, in her 1998 Dance Magazine article. "[S]he has carved out a unique, brilliant style of wordless singing that treats the voice as a dancing voice and movement as a singing body," Kourlas wrote. "Her voice has all the character, texture, sensuality, and color of her movement."

Periodicals

Christian Science Monitor, May 14, 1999.

Dance Magazine, July 2001.

Houston Chronicle, October 6, 1985.

Irish Times (Dublin), October 25, 2001.

New York Times, October 31, 1999.

Online

"Meredith (Jane) Monk," Biography Resource Center Online, Gale Group, 2005, http://galenet.galegroups.com/servlet/BioRC (December 13, 2005).

"Merdith (Jane) Monk," Grove Music Online, http://www.grovemusic.com (December 13, 2005).

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Monk, Meredith

Meredith Monk

Singer, composer, choreographer

Vocalist, composer, and choreographer Meredith Monk has often been described as a Renaissance woman of the arts. "The center is the voice, and the center is the music. I use center in the largest sense of the word, because I feel that when I do a theater piece now, I'm an orchestrator of music and image and movement," Meredith Monk explained to OPERA America in October of 1984. "I have tried, in my music, to go back to the beginnings of the voice and deal with it as an instrument in the most direct way possible. Some of the things I've discovered I came upon by simply working with my own voice."

Born in Lima, Peru, where her mother was performing as a singer, Monk was raised in New York City and Connecticut. She received formal training in piano, ballet, modern dance, and eurhythmics from an early age. Monk came from a deep musical lineage. Her great-grandfather was a cantor; her grandfather was a singer, and her grandparents founded the Zellman Conservatory of Music; her mother was a singer as well. Monk began studying piano at the age of three, and could reportedly read music before she was reading words. She was introduced to modern composers including Kabalevsky, Igor Stravinsky, and Bela Bartok by her piano teacher.

Monk has credited her years at Sarah Lawrence College, as well as classes with modern dance choreographers Bessie Schonberg and Judith Dunn, with releasing her creativity. In a profile in Music Journal she reminisced, "I was encouraged to work with a feeling [and] let the medium and form find itself. It seemed that finally I was able to combine movement with music and words, all coming from a single source."

Dunn introduced her to the choreographers who would later become the leaders of the post-modern dance movement. She joined the Judson Dance Theater, a loosely organized experimental group that grew out of classes given by Robert Dunn at the Merce Cunningham Studio in 1964. The Judson dancers gave concerts of short works at the Judson Memorial Church in New York's Greenwich Village and in other locations. Her best known works from the Judson concerts were mixed-media pieces such as 16mm Earrings, which she performed with projections at the Billy Rose Theatre Festival of the Avant-Garde in 1969.

Monk experimented with the limitations created by specific locations in early works she composed for her own troupe, The House. Juice: A Theatre Cantata in 3 Installments (1969), for example, was created for performance at three different locations, ranging from the ramps of the Guggenheim Museum to The House's Soho loft. Her subsequent works did not rely on definite spaces, however. Her 1973 Education of the Girlchild is a pure performance in which Monk takes 45 minutes to regress from an elderly woman to a young child, using movements and vocal sounds.

Music became more important in Monk's work as she assembled her troupe and taught them her vocal repertory. Quarry (1976) was the first of many works to be described as an "opera." In the work, the abstract images of World War II were presented in a score that included solos, duets, small groups, and a large chorus, as well as dance sequences and a scale-manipulating film. Recent Ruins (1979), another mixed-media opera, depicted archaeologists from the future unearthing New York. Its film sequence, Ellis Island, was broadcast separately on the Public Broadcasting System and on European television. Monk was awarded the CINE Golden Eagle in 1982.

Based on Walt Whitman's Civil War writings, Specimen Days (1981) presented a look at the past, focusing again on civilians in war. The Games, created with Ping Chong in 1983, was an alternative view of the Olympics of the future, commissioned by a West Berlin theater group and presented in the United States at the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Next Wave Festival. Its large chorus and massed movements were in sharp contrast to the smaller scale of Turtle Dreams (1983). The latter work, with its five soloists performing isolated Cha-Cha dances, was described by Newsweek as "the precise sensation of being a foreigner, wholly cut off from the activities that constitute ordinary life around us." The magazine quoted her as demanding "the constant shift of perceptions, the shifting of balance, the multidimensional experience—that's what I want in my theatre. It has mobility."

Monk's concerts and recordings have been focused on the voice. At a 1981 "music concert with film," she screened excerpts from Ellis Island and presented a solo version of Education of the Girlchild. She has given recitals for solo voice accompanied only by her finger rubbing a water glass, a chilling effect that she used on the recording Our Lady of Late (1973).

Songs from the Hill (1976) was a trio for women that premiered with House members Andrea Goodman and Monica Solen. John Rockwell wrote in the New York Times that Monk had "perfected her own technique to emit amazing varieties of sounds rarely heard from a Western throat, full of wordless cries and moans, a lexicon of vocal coloration, glottal attacks and micro-tonal waverings that lie at the heart of all musical culture." In Dolmen Music (1979), Monk added three male voices and a cello for the 40-minute work. As a recording, it was given the German Music Critics' award for Best Record of 1981. Fayum Music, originally the score of a film about Egyptian Fayum portraits, was composed for vernacular instruments—the voice, hammered dulcimer, and double ocarina.

Monk performed and recorded frequently with pianist and keyboard artist Nurit Tilles. She discussed their recital in December 1988 with Stephen Holden in his "The Pop Life" column in the New York Times: "I'm working with a much more delicate palette, using the voice as a transparent kind of instrument. Some of the songs, I call 'click songs,' because they have percussion and melody going on at the same time."

Monk has received both an Obie (from the Off and Off-Off Broadway critics) and a Bessie (from dance critics) for sustained achievement, as well as fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, among other honors. Her music has received six ASCAP awards for Composition.

"She has carved out a unique, brilliant style of wordless singing that treats the voice as a dancing voice and movement as a singing body," wrote Gia Kourlas in a Dance Magazine profile. "Her voice has all the character, texture, sensuality, and color of her movement."

For the Record …

Born on November 20, 1942, in Lima, Peru; daughter of Theodore Glenn Monk and Audrey Zellman (a singer). Education: Sarah Lawrence College, B.A., 1964.

Studied piano, ballet, and modern dance as a child; member of experimental Judson Dance Theater, 1960s; founder of her own dance troupe, The House, 1969; has presented experimental dance performances and mixed-media operas and given solo and ensemble vocal concerts.

Awards: Numerous Obie and Bessie Awards, including 1972 and 1976; six medals for composition from American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP); fellowships from Guggenheim Foundation (1972) and National Endowment for the Arts, as well as a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (1995) and Dance Magazine Award (1992).

Addresses: Office—The House Foundation, 306 W. 38th St., #401, New York, NY 10018. Website—Meredith Monk Official Website: http://www.meredith monk.org.

OPERA America featured Monk with Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim in the first issue of its newsletter, Opera for the 80's and Beyond, recognizing her importance in music and musical theater. The newsletter wrote that her aim is to create "an art that is inclusive rather than exclusive; that is expansive, whole, human, multi-dimensional. An art which seeks to re-establish the unity that exists in music, theater and dance."

In 1991 Monk was commissioned to write an opera by the Houston Grand Opera. The result was Atlas, which was performed by the Houston Grand Opera and at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Monk has frequently taken her collaborative multimedia work in unexpected directions. In 2001 she created mercy, a musical theater performance, with Ann Hamilton, a sculptor. The work premiered at Duke University in July of 2001. A recording of music from the work was subsequently released. "The virtuosity displayed by Monk and her vocal cohorts is considerable," wrote Allen Gimbel in American Record Guide, "and it's hard not to be taken in by the mystery and sheer invention of this fascinating artist's fantasy."

Monk's work has continued unabated, and continues to defy categorization, as does the artist herself. "I never think I am a noun; I always feel like I'm a verb," she told Dance Magazine. "I've always fought against being categorized. I think everything feeds everything else."

Selected discography

Our Lady of Late, Wergo, 1973; reissued, 1986.
Key: An Album of Invisible Theatre, Increase Records, 1970; reissued, Lovely Music, 1977.
(Compilation) Airwaves, One Ten Records, 1977.
(Compilation) Big Ego, Giorno Poetry Systems Records, 1978.
Songs from the Hill, Wergo, 1979.
Dolmen Music, ECM, 1981.
Turtle Dreams, ECM, 1983.
(Compilation) Better an Old Demon Than a New God, Giorno Poetry Systems Records, 1984.
Do You Be, ECM New Series, 1987.
Book of Days, ECM, 1990.
Facing North, ECM, 1992.
(With others) U.S. Choice (Anthology), CRI, 1992.
Atlas: An Opera in Three Parts, ECM, 1993.
(With others) Of Eternal Light (Anthology), Catalyst, 1993.
(With others) Monk and the Abbess: The Music of Meredith Monk and Hildegard von Bingen, BMG/Catalyst, 1996.
Mercy, 2001.

Sources

Books

Her Heritage: A Biographical Encyclopedia of Famous American Women, 1995.

Periodicals

American Record Guide, May-June 2003.

American Theatre, March 1998.

Artforum International, April 2000.

Back Stage, December 17, 2004.

Dance Magazine, April 1998; November 1999; February 2000; July 2001; July 2002; November 2004.

Music Journal, September-October 1979.

Newsweek, October 29, 1984.

New York Times, March 28, 1976; December 7, 1988.

OPERA America, October, 1984.

Opera News, August 1995.

Online

Meredith Monk Official Website, http://www.meredithmonk.org (August 14, 2005).

Additional information was obtained from NPR's All Things Considered, on April 13, 1994.

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"Monk, Meredith." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Monk, Meredith." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved October 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/monk-meredith-0

Monk, Meredith

Meredith Monk

Vocalist, composer, choreographer

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

The center is the voice, and the center is the I music. I use center in the largest sense of the word, because I feel that when I do a theater piece now, Im an orchestrator of music and image and movement, Meredith Monk explained to OPERA America in October 1984. I have tried, in my music, to go back to the beginnings of the voice and deal with it as an instrument in the most direct way possible. Some of the things Ive discovered I came upon by simply working with my own voice. Vocalist, composer, and choreographer Meredith Monk has often been described as a Renaissance woman of the arts.

Born in Lima, Peru, where her vocalist mother was concertizing, Monk was raised in New York City and Connecticut. She received formal training in piano, ballet, modern dance, and eurhythmies from an early age. Monk has credited her years at Sarah Lawrence College, and classes with modern dance choreographers Bessie Schonberg and Judith Dunn, with releasing her creativity. In a profile in Music Journal (1979), she reminisced that I was encouraged to work with a feeling [and] let the medium and form find itself. It seemed that finally I was able to combine movement with music and words, all coming fom a single source.

Monk was introduced to the choreographers who became the leaders of the post-modern dance movement by Dunn. She joined the Judson Dance Theater, a loosely organized experimental group that sprung from classes by Robert Dunn at the Merce Cunningham Studio in 1964. The Judson dancers gave concerts of short works at the Judson Memorial Church in New Yorks Greenwich Village and in other locations. Her best known works from the Judson concerts were mixed-media pieces, such as 16mm Earrings, which she performed with projections at the Billy Rose Theatre Festival of the Avant-Garde in 1969.

Monk experimented with the limitations created by specific locations in many early works created for her own troupe, The House. Juice: A Theatre Cantata in 3 Installments (1969), for example, was created for performance at three different locationsfrom the ramps of the Guggenheim Museum to The Houses Soho loft. Her more recent works do not depend on externals, however. Her 1973 Education of the Girlchild is a pure performance tour de force as Monk takes 45 minutes to regress from an elderly woman to a young child using movements and vocal sounds.

Music became more important in Monks work as she assembled her troupe and taught them her vocal repertory. Quarry (1976) was the first of many works to be described as an opera since the abstract images of World War II were presented in a score that included solos, duets, small groups, and a large chorus, as well

For the Record

Born November 20, 1942, in Lima, Peru (where her mother was performing); daughter of Theodore Glenn Monk and Audrey Zellman (a vocalist). Education: Sarah Lawrence College, B.A., 1964.

Studied piano, ballet, and modern dance as a child; member of experimental Judson Dance Theater in the 1960s; founder of her own dance troupe, The House, 1969; has presented experimental dance performances and mixed-media operas; has also given solo and ensemble vocal concerts.

Awards: Obie and Bessie Awards for sustained achievement; six medals for composition from American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP); has received fellowships from Guggenheim Foundation and National Endowment for the Arts.

Addresses: Home New York, NY. Office The House Foundation for the Arts, 325 Spring St., New York, NY 10013.

as dance sequences and a scale-manipulating film. Recent Ruins (1979), another mixed-media opera, depicted archeologists from the future unearthing New York. Its film sequence, Ellis Island, was broadcast separately on the Public Broadcasting System and on European television and was awarded the CINE Golden Eagle in 1982. Based on Walt Whitmans Civil War writings, Specimen Days (1981) presented a look at the past, focusing again on civilians in war. The Games, created with Ping Chong in 1983, was an alternative view of the Olympics of the future commissioned by a West Berlin theater group and presented in the United States at the Brooklyn Academy of Musics Next Wave Festival.

Its large chorus and massed movements were in sharp contrast to the smaller scale of Turtle Dreams (Cabaret) (1983). The latter work, with its five soloists performing isolated Cha-Cha dances, was described by Newsweek as the precise sensation of being a foreigner, wholly cut off from the activities that consitute ordinary life around us. The magazine quoted her as demanding the constant shift of perceptions, the shifting of balance, the multidimensional experiencethats what I want in my theatre. It has mobility.

Monks feature-length film, Book of Days (Tatgo-Lasseur Productions in association with TV Sept [France], 1989) uses the fourteenth century as a metaphor for the present world. The work, to be given its United States premiere on the Public Broadcasting System series Alive from Off-Center, is, as she described it in The House literature, a film about timefuture and pastan abstract treatment of the sadness and joy of daily life.

Monks concerts and recordings have been focused on the voice. At a May 1981 music concert with film, she screened excerpts from Ellis Island and presented a solo version of Education of the Girlchild. She has given recitals for solo voice accompanied only by her finger rubbing a water glass, a chilling effect that she used on the recording Our Lady of Late (1973). As L.K. Telberg described it in Music Journal, it is set, quite ingeniously, against the bourbon pitches heard as Monk rubs her finger against the rim of a glass goblet in which the water is gradually descreased (and the pitch lowered) by sipping. Monk analyzed it in an unpublished memo, Notes on the Voice, as the naked voice, the female voice in all its aspects; gradations of feeling, nuance, rhythm, quality, each section another voice (character, persona), each section a particular musical problem, area of investigation.

Her Songs from the Hill (1976) is a trio for women, premiered with House members Andrea Goodman and Monica Solen. In a 1976 review, John Rockwell wrote in the New York Times that she had perfected her own technique to emit amazing varieties of sounds rarely heard from a Western throat, full of wordless cries and moans, a lexicon of vocal coloration, glottal attacks and microtonal waverings that lie at the heart of all musical culture. In Dolmen Music (1979), Monk added three male voices and a cello for the 40 minute work. As recorded, it was given the German Music Critics award for Best record of 1981. Fayum Music, originally the score of a film about Egyptian Fayum portraits, was composed for vernacular instrumentsthe voice, hammered dulcimer, and double ocarina.

Monk now performs and records with pianist and keyboard artist Nurit Tilles. She discussed their recital in December 1988 with Stephen Holden in his The Pop Life column in the New York Times: Im working with a much more delicate palette, using the voice as a transparent kind of instrument. Some of the songs, I call click songs, because they have percussion and melody going on at the same time. She is developing a work for the Minnesota Operas New Music-Theater Ensemble and is composing a score for the Jose Limon Dance Company.

Monk has received both an Obie (from the Off and Off-Off Broadway critics) and a Bessie (from dance critics) for sustained achievement, as well as fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Her music has received six ASCAP awards for Composition.

When OPERA America paired Monk with Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim in the first issue of its newsletter, Opera for the 80s and Beyond, it was recognizing her importance in music and music-theater. The newsletter quotes her on her own definitions of the art forms: [Her aim is to create] an art that is inclusive rather than exclusive; that is expansive, whole, human, multi-dimensional. An art which seeks to reestablish the unity that exists in music, theater and dance. I want an art which reaches towards emotion that we have no words for, that we barely rememberan art that affirms the world of feeling in a time and society where feelings are being systematically eliminated. Monk has found that her voice and her art forms, in live performance, film or recordings, can create the world she envisions.

Selected discography

Our Lady of Late, Wergo, 1973; re-released 1986.

Key: An Album of Invisible Theatre, Lovely Music, 1977.

Songs from the Hill, Wergo, 1979.

Dolmen Music, ECM, 1980.

Turtle Dreams, ECM, 1983.

Sources

Music Journal, September-October 1979.

New York Times, March 28, 1976; December 7, 1988.

Newsweek, October 29, 1984.

OPERA America, October, 1984.

Barbara Stratyner

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