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Meredith Monk & Mieke van Hoek

Meredith Jane Monk (born November 20, 1942 in New York) 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.

The documentary Inner Voice shows how the death of her partner, Dutch-born choreographer Mieke van Hoek (b. 1946), in 2002 – after they had been together for 22 years – was a breaking point in Monk’s life. In a conversation with Zen teacher Daido Loori Roshi of the Zen Mountain Monastery she talks about going straight through her fear; how she came face to face with death, both from the loss of her partner and after being thrown from a horse in 2007. In a performance of her Scared Song written in 1986, Monk, accompanying herself on keyboard, beautifully evokes the essence of fear.

Meredith Monk exemplified the avant-garde movement in contemporary music. In 1978 she formed the Vocal Ensemble, which toured the world. Her vocal innovations influenced Björk, among many others. Monk has worked with painters, including Robert RAUSCHENBERG, to create mixed-media pieces of art and music.

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.

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).

Stern, Keith (2009-09-01). Queers in History: The Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Historical Gays, Lesbians and Bisexuals (Kindle Locations 8789-8794). Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.

Further Readings:

Meredith Monk (Art + Performance) by Deborah Jowitt
Paperback: 210 pages
Publisher: PAJ Publications (March 15, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1555541542
ISBN-13: 978-1555541545
Amazon: Meredith Monk (Art + Performance)

Part of PAJ's acclaimed Art + Performance series. Meredith Monk is a pioneer in what is now known as "extended vocal technique." The New Yorker music critic Alex Ross has said of her: "She represents a kind of reboot of tradition. She may loom ever larger as the new century unfolds, and later generations will envy those who got to see her live." This edition is heavily illustrated.

More Real Life Romances at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Real Life Romance


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Tags: gay classics, musician: meredith monk, persistent voices, queers in history, real life romance
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