Meredith Monk – Bending Melodies in ‘Songs of Ascension’

A review from

The wonder of Meredith Monk is that having created a musical language and theatrical style, she has been able to stretch and refine them with just about every work. Her recent music, including “Songs of Ascension,” a collaboration with the video artist Ann Hamilton, which opened at the BAM Harvey Theater on Wednesday, sounds nothing like the assertive pieces she wrote and sang in the 1980s. Yet enough musical DNA remains, in the form of idiosyncratic warbling and interlocking rhythms, that you would not mistake it for anyone else’s work.

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Classical Listings in the New York Times


MMARTISTS IN CONCERT (Friday) The Metropolitan Museum’s resident chamber group, the awkwardly named MMArtists in Concert, play Mozart’s Duo No. 2 for Violin and Viola (K. 424) and the sublime Divertimento in E flat (K. 563), as well as Sofia Gubaidulina’s “Rejoice” Sonata for Violin and Cello. The players are Colin Jacobsen, violinist; Nicholas Cords, violist; and Edward Arron, cellist. At 7 p.m., Metropolitan Museum of Art, 212-570-3949 ,; $40. (Kozinn)20091015

MEREDITH MONK (Wednesday and Thursday) As part of the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave series, Meredith Monk, for more than 40 years a composer, vocalist, performance artist, filmmaker and choreographer who has attracted an ardent following, presents “Songs of Ascension.” This multidisciplinary work explores the theme of spiritual enlightenment through ascent, from Buddhist practice to Jacob’s Ladder. The 65-minute work involves music, movement, video and spirituality. The performers are Meredith Monk and Vocal Ensemble and the Todd Reynolds String Quartet. (Through Oct. 25.) Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Harvey Theater, Brooklyn Academy of Music, 651 Fulton Street, Fort Greene , (718) 636-4100,; $20 to $50. (Tommasini)20091015

? IANNIS XENAXIS: PANEL DISCUSSION AND PERFORMANCE (Friday and Saturday) Ordinarily, music lovers who want to expose themselves to the work of a contemporary composer are wise to just jump in and listen. But the music of the Romanian-born Greek composer Iannis Xenakis (1922-2001) may be best appreciated along with some commentary. Therefore the Miller Theater’s intriguing free panel discussion and performance, “Iannis Xenakis: Interdisciplinary Connections,” is a rare opportunity to grapple with the music of a visionary composer whose work was both formidably intellectual and intensely intuitive. Xenakis was also a mathematician, architect and political activist. The panel includes Sharon Kanach, a Xenakis biographer; Mark Wigley, the dean of Columbia University’s School of Architecture; David Lang, the composer; and Lara Pellegrinelli, an arts journalist and scholar. The percussionist Steven Schick will perform a seminal early percussion work by Xenakis. The day after the program the Miller Theater presents a Composers Portrait concert featuring Xenakis’s music, performed by the International Contemporary Ensemble. Panel and performance: Friday at 7 p.m.; Composer Portraits Concert: Saturday at 8 p.m.; Miller Theater at Columbia University, Broadway at 116th Street, Morningside Heights , (212) 854-7799,; Friday, free; Saturday, $7 to $25. (Tommasini)

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Meredith Monk’s Big Week

Ms. Monk has a big event tomorrow.

A small army of performers, including 25 dancers and nearly 100 choristers, will occupy the spiral ramp of the Guggenheim Museum in New York on Thursday. The ad hoc troupe will assemble to perform “Songs of Ascension,” a ritualistic work by avant-garde composer and choreographer Meredith Monk, who has been inspired by religious symbols shared across cultures. Meredith Monk Vocal Ensemble, the Stone Wall Chorus and the Montclair State University Chorus will perform “Songs of Ascension” at 6:30 p.m. and 9 p.m., March 5, at the Guggenheim Museum, on Fifth Ave and 89th Street. Tickets are $50 general admission and $20 for students. Call (212) 423-3587 or visit

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Nick Hallett at the Stone

Hallett will be featured at New York’s Stone.

Nick Hallett in recital
Tuesday, February 17 at 8pm
The Stone
Corner of 2nd Street and Avenue C, New York
$10 admission

Nick Hallett is a musician and avid curator working in the intersection of sound, moving image, and live performance. Nick’s projects encompass singing various genres of new music (from opera to cabaret to extended vocal technique), composing for film and theater, and staging new media performance. He originated the band PLANTAINS, which from 2000 until 2003 operated as a live multimedia act, incorporating electronic music and video. His New York opera debut was in 2005 at the Kitchen in Susie Ibarra‘s Shangri-La at The Kitchen. His has since presented several music-based multimedia concerts at The Kitchen, in addition to singing the music of Arthur Russell there as part of a shared bill in 2008. He is deeply devoted to performing the work of Meredith Monk, and has performed her cycle, Our Lady of Late, at Performa07, Chashama, and Dixon Place. He is the co-curator of the Darmstadt series, which is regularly recognized in the New York Times and Time Out New York for its innovative programming of new music, in addition to being the producer and music curator for the Joshua Light Show. He has two original music-theater works in development, one with playwright Jessica Blank (The Exonerated, Iraq Refugee Project) and another with video-performance artist Shana Moulton (Whispering Pines). Upcoming concerts for 2009 include a solo recital at The Stone, and another tribute to Arthur Russell (which he is performing in and co-organizing) at Le Poisson Rouge, as part of the Wordless Music Series.

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‘Songs of Ascension’ takes flight at REDCAT

Meredith Monk is profiled in the Los Angeles Times:

Monk considers herself primarily a “music maker.” She resists terms such as “avant-garde” and “composer,” both of which suggest a tradition of notated sheet music at odds with her more intuitive creative process. Despite this, she works under the superficial umbrella of modern composition, releasing piano music, accepting commissions from such performers as the Kronos Quartet and Michael Tilson Thomas and issuing almost all her music on the jazz and classical label ECM.

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Stanford Lively Arts Event: Songs of Ascension

Meredith Monk and others play at Stanford.

Songs of Ascension
featuring: Meredith Monk and Vocal Ensemble; Todd Reynolds Quartet and Guests; Ann Hamilton, visual media; members of the Pacific Mozart Ensemble

October 18, 2008
Saturday / 8:00 pm
Memorial Auditorium

$25–60 (Adult) | $13–30 (Stanford Student)

Commissioned by Stanford Lively Arts, Songs of Ascension is the latest in a long line of major works for an ensemble of voices and instruments by MacArthur “Genius Award” recipient Meredith Monk. Fusing movement, vocalization, and imagery into an organic and powerfully communicative whole, Monk explores musical and spatial motifs that highlight rising sound and movement to convey the spiritual or otherworldly. With the architecture of a cathedral or tower as a metaphor, and historical grounding in the devotional practices and rituals that evoke ascension, Monk draws inspiration in the processionals of Buddhist stupas, Moses’ journey up the 4000 steps of Mt. Sinai, and the Tawaf around the Ka’Bah in Islam. Monk is joined by her own ensemble plus multimedia artist and fellow MacArthur honoree Ann Hamilton, a string quartet directed by the genre-weaving violinist and Ethel co-founder Todd Reynolds, and members of the Pacific Mozart Ensemble.

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