236

Meredith Monk: impermanence

Budd Kopman By

Sign in to view read count
Meredith Monk: impermanence impermanence is the ninth recording by Meredith Monk for ECM, six years removed from her previous recording, mercy (ECM, 2002). An interdisciplinary artist whose works combine vocals (with extended techniques that take it beyond singing), instrumental composition, dance and video, Monk's arrangements for CD of the original form of impermanence follow the strategy she used on mercy whereby much was significantly altered for a pure listening experience.

Although the subjects of living life, aging and death have been grist for thought throughout the centuries, the main impulses for this work were a series of specific incidents: a book by James Hillman, The Force of Character: And the Lasting Life (Random House, 1999), the sudden death of Miek van Hoek, Monk's partner of twenty-two years, and a request from Rosetta Life, a group that connects artist with hospice patients, for a work based on their patient's stories.

If mercy was on the preachy side, impermanence is a pure gift. It does not tell us how to live, how to die or how to view the life and death of others, but rather it can, as Monk states in her liner notes, "only imply it, offer glimpses, create music that would be evocative but would also leave space for each listener to have his or her responses."

Monk's compositional techniques have evolved so that on this release, the instruments share the stage with the voices rather than merely providing simple accompaniment. The music of impermanence is more complicated, more chromatic and dissonant than mercy, while using mostly the same vocal and instrumental forces. Monk says that she has always written for the voice as if it were an instrument and that she is now thinking and writing for instruments as voices.

Monk creates much beauty and poignancy, as each track investigates a differing aspect of impermanence in human existence. The degree of abstraction in relation to the subject varies from piece to piece, and much of the music can easily stand on its own.

The three longest tracks, all of which are in the first half, bear closer examination. "last song," which relates to Hillman's book, examines the various and contradictory uses of the word "last" and the tension between them. "liminal," which literally means "at the threshold of perception," has a minimalist subtext as the odd length, repeated accompanying piano and marimba figure, with its static harmony, is slowly altered and enlarged by voices and reeds. "between song" begins with a strong religious sound, starting with lightly struck gongs and then exploring "between-ness," the barely existing separation between various pairs of things.

impermanence is a deeply moving work in which Monk's grappling with the subject is palpable. The last track, "miek's melody nr 5," starts as a vocal hymn to van Hoek but then ends with a sparse piano and vibraphone section that sums up the conflict between loss and acceptance.

Track Listing: last song; maybe 1; little breath; liminal; disequilibrium; particular dance; between song; passage; maybe 2; skeleton lines; slow dissolve; totentanz; sweep 1; rocking; sweep 2; Meike's melody #5.

Personnel: Meredith Monk: voice (1, 3-12, 14, 16), piano (1, 2, 10); Allison Sniffin: voice (3-5, 7-9, 11, 14-16), piano (2, 3, 6, 7, 10, 12, 16), violin (3, 11, 12); Katie Geissinger: voice (3-9, 11, 12, 14, 16), piano (2); Ellen Fisher: voice (5, 6, 8, 9, 11, 14, 16), piano (2); Theo Bleckmann: voice (3-6, 8. 9, 11, 12, 14, 16), piano (2, 10); Ching Gonzalez: voice (6, 8, 9, 11, 14, 16), piano (2); Bohdan Hilash: piano (2), bass clarinet (3, 4, 7, 9, 11, 12, 14), Bb clarinet (4, 7, 10, 12), A clarinet (4), soprano saxophone (4, 12), aulos (4), double ocarina (6), Balinese flute (6), zaphoon (6), pung (6), ocean drum (15); John Hollenbeck: piano (2), elephant bells (3), marimba (4, 10, 12, 14), vibraphone (4, 7, 10, 12, 14, 16), percussion (4), bass drum (4, 6, 9, 12), bicycle wheel (5), metal and wood percussion (6), cymbal (6), anklung (6), Chinese temple bells (7, 15), wooden clackers (10), glockenspiel (11), paddle drums (12, 13), percussion (15), magnets (15), Silvie Jensen: voice (5, 6, 8, 11, 14, 16); Sasha Bogdanowitsch: voice (6, 8, 11, 14, 16).

Title: impermanence | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: ECM Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Albert Mangelsdorff And His Friends CD/LP/Track Review Albert Mangelsdorff And His Friends
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 16, 2017
Read Heaven On Their Minds CD/LP/Track Review Heaven On Their Minds
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: August 16, 2017
Read Unnatural  Events CD/LP/Track Review Unnatural Events
by Roger Farbey
Published: August 16, 2017
Read Rediscovered Ellington CD/LP/Track Review Rediscovered Ellington
by James Nadal
Published: August 16, 2017
Read Clean CD/LP/Track Review Clean
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 15, 2017
Read Expedition: Duo Electro-Acoustic Improvisations CD/LP/Track Review Expedition: Duo Electro-Acoustic Improvisations
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: August 15, 2017
Read "Unification" CD/LP/Track Review Unification
by Mark Corroto
Published: June 12, 2017
Read "In Times Like These" CD/LP/Track Review In Times Like These
by James Nadal
Published: May 13, 2017
Read "A Piece of the Apple" CD/LP/Track Review A Piece of the Apple
by Geno Thackara
Published: August 7, 2017
Read "Harmonies" CD/LP/Track Review Harmonies
by Glenn Astarita
Published: May 10, 2017
Read "Cross My Palm With Silver" CD/LP/Track Review Cross My Palm With Silver
by Karl Ackermann
Published: April 28, 2017
Read "Left" CD/LP/Track Review Left
by John Sharpe
Published: November 22, 2016

Sponsor: JANA PROJECT | LEARN MORE  

Support our sponsor

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.