Jazz Culture: Happy Birthday Meredith Monk!

Directness, purity, asymmetry and above all transparency have always been important to me..”

The work of the composer and singer

Meredith Monk has always defied categorization. Throughout a professional career that began in 1964, she has not only experimented in a wide variety of fields – embracing film, installation and site-specific work, as well as music and dance – but has also frequently blazed new trails. In particular, she was a pioneer of what is now called interdisciplinary performance and extended vocal technique, which has earned her the title of “voice magician”.

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Meredith Monk was born in New York in 1942 and studied at Sarah Lawrence College. In the early 1960s she began to explore the voice as a multi-faceted instrument, building on her ability to create drones, explore modes and vocalizations without words. She then composed and performed numerous solo pieces for unaccompanied voice and voice/keyboard. In 1968, Meredith Monk founded The House, a company dedicated to interdisciplinary performance, and ten years later she formed the Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble to expand her range of musical textures and forms.

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Since the release of ‘Dolmen Music’ (1981), Monk has made more than a dozen recordings for ECM’s New Series, including Grammy-nominated ‘Impermanence’ (2008) and ‘Songs of Ascension’. (2011), highly acclaimed, which brings together voice and instruments in a way that is rare in his earlier works. “Book of Days” (1990) has been described as “a movie for the ears” by ECM producer Manfred Eicher and had its origins in a film of the same name. “Piano Songs” (2014), performed by two of the most distinguished interpreters of new music, American pianists Ursula Oppens and Bruce Brubaker, puts highlights a lesser-known aspect of his instrumental production, which is at once direct, specific and colorful.

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Tom Service praised the “extraordinary ululations and incantations, vertiginous jumps, falls, cries and other wordless acrobatics” by Meredith Monk, adding that her great achievement was making them ring”completely natural and essential“. In the words of the Washington Post: “In terms of originality, scope and depth, few can match it.“. Meredith Monk has received numerous international awards, including a Genius Award from the MacArthur Foundation in 1995. In 2015, she received the United States National Medal of Arts from President Obama at the White House.


“Meredith Monk – The Recordings”, a box of 13 CDs limited edition collection of everything Meredith Monk has recorded to date on ECM New Series, is released to mark the singer and songwriter’s 80th birthday. Meredith was the first singer to be recorded on ECM and her loyalty to the label has been total since the release of “Dolmen Music” in 1981.

This beautifully designed box set includes a 300-page booklet with all the original liner notes, plus new lyrics and interviews. Additionally, the book includes an introductory essay by Frank J. Oteri, “The Worlds of Meredith Monk,” an autobiographical text by Meredith titled “The Soul’s Messenger,” and a foreword by Manfred Eicher. There are also numerous photographs (some of which have never been published before), press quotes, archival documents and much more.
(excerpt from the press release in English – translation E. Laaze / A. Dutilh

Jazz Culture: Happy Birthday Meredith Monk!