ECM: A Cultural Archeology
A small but informative printed guide was provided to those entering the exhibition, free of charge, which described each room and the various films and audio samples (in German and English), as well as including some choice photos from the ECM archives. But for those who want more, a new book has also been published to coincide with the exhibition (also in English and German editions), ECM: A Cultural Archeology (ECM: Eine kulturelle Archäologie) (Prestel, 2012)edited by the exhibition's curators and put together, according to ECM's Steve Lake, in the almost unbelievable timeframe of thirty days. A gorgeous, 300-page black hardback book, with a wraparound high quality paper photo, it includes new essays from Enwezor, Müller, Wolfgang Sandner, Deidrich Deiderichsen, Renée Green, Kudwo Eshun and Jürgen Stenzl; a roundtable discussion between the curators, Eicher, Lake and music journalist Karl Lippegaus; a new ECM timeline, compiled by Lake; and a complete discography of the label from 1969-2012. For those unable to make the trek to München for the exhibition, the book is the next best thing to being there, and a terrific partner to Steve Lake and Paul Griffith's sadly out-of-print Horizons Touched: The Music of ECM (Granta, 2007).
If this were all there were, it would be plenty. But in addition to the exhibition, Haus der Kunst is hosting a series of evening screenings throughout its three-month run, including a number of films which feature ECM music in their soundtracks, like those of Greek director Theo Angelopoulos, who regularly uses the music of Eleni Karaindrou; Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky. who was the subject of a three albums by French pianist Francois Couturier, which wrapped up with 2011's Tarkovsky Quartet; and, of course, director Jean-Luc Godard, who has shared a long partnership with Eicher, who released the audio soundtrackdialog, music and all elseto Nouvelle Vague (1997), as well as the beautiful five-CD box set that is the complete soundtrack to Godard's Histoire(s) du Cinéma (1999), complete with the film's narration in four books, translated from French to both German and English.
ECM: A Cultural Archeology is also hosting a series of live performances throughout the exhibition's run. For the opening weekend in November, Couturier's Tarkovsky Quartet, Tunisian oudist Anouar Brahem's Quartet and Italian trumpeter Enrico Rava's Quintet were all on-hand. In January, performances are scheduled for Swiss pianist Nik Bartsch; a double-bill featuring British saxophonist Evan Parker's Electro-Acoustic Quartet and Anglo/Norwegian duo Food; American saxophonist Tim Berne's Snakeoil quartet; pianist András Schiffl and others, while in February, saxophonist Charles Lloyd will perform in a new duo with pianist Jason Moran, who's been a member of the saxophonist's quartet for the past several years; Italian pianist Stefano Battaglia's trio will perform music from its upcoming follow-up to its sublime River of Anyder (2011), and the exhibition will close with Tomasz Stańko's New York Quartet and a final evening with Jan Garbarek and the Hilliard Ensemble.
But for this weekend in December, 2012, it was two classical performances: the first, on December 14, by American singer/composer Meredith Monk, who delivered a tremendous program of solo pieces, duos with singer Katie Geissinger and, for a finale, a quartet piece with pianist Alexei Lubimov and clarinetist Kyrill Rybakov, who would perform the following evening in a program that was meant to be a double bill with cellists Thomas and Patrick Demenga, but which unfortunately had to be altered due to illness.
For a first-time encounter with Monk, the avant-vocalist/composer couldn't have presented a better program. With music dating as far back as 1969, Monk sang alone, accompanied herself on piano and harmonium, and duetted with Geissinger on material traversing her ten ECM recordings, including 1993's Volcano Songs, 1992's Facing North, 2004's Impermanence, 1993's Atlas and the most recent Songs of Ascension (2011).
It's hard to believe the spry and sprightly Monk turned 70 this year. With her long hair tied into two pigtails and dressed as youthfully as ever, Monk also demonstrated that her music may, at times, sound serious, but it's performed with a great deal of fun...humor, even, especially in the duet pieces where Monk and the considerably taller Giessinger played off each other to great effect. Her introductions revealed a woman comfortable in her own skin and life experiences, even the more painful ones, as she revealed that Impermanence was a reflection on the loss of her life partner, choreographer Mieke van Hoek, who died of cancer in 2002, while Songs of Ascension clearly reflects her ultimately coming to terms with that loss.