All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

236

Meredith Monk: impermanence

Budd Kopman By

Sign in to view read count
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

Live From New York
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Piano Songs

Piano Songs

ECM Records
2014

buy
 

Impermanence

ECM Records
2009

buy
impermanence

impermanence

ECM Records
2008

buy
Mercy

Mercy

ECM Records
2008

buy
 

Key

ECM Records
1995

buy
 

Dolmen Music

ECM Records
1981

buy

Related Articles

Read My Singing Fingers CD/LP/Track Review
My Singing Fingers
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: May 25, 2018
Read Ain't It Grand? CD/LP/Track Review
Ain't It Grand?
by Jack Bowers
Published: May 25, 2018
Read If Not Now, When? CD/LP/Track Review
If Not Now, When?
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: May 25, 2018
Read Perfectly Unhappy CD/LP/Track Review
Perfectly Unhappy
by Gareth Thompson
Published: May 25, 2018
Read Sorrows & Triumphs CD/LP/Track Review
Sorrows & Triumphs
by Jerome Wilson
Published: May 25, 2018
Read Half Light CD/LP/Track Review
Half Light
by Karl Ackermann
Published: May 24, 2018
Read "2018 Neujahrskonzert New Year’s Concert" CD/LP/Track Review 2018 Neujahrskonzert New Year’s Concert
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: January 21, 2018
Read "Songs We Like" CD/LP/Track Review Songs We Like
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: September 2, 2017
Read "Peaks of Light" CD/LP/Track Review Peaks of Light
by Mark Sullivan
Published: March 18, 2018
Read "Think Ahead" CD/LP/Track Review Think Ahead
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: July 8, 2017
Read "Town And Country" CD/LP/Track Review Town And Country
by Jerome Wilson
Published: June 21, 2017
Read "Walk The Walk" CD/LP/Track Review Walk The Walk
by Mark Sullivan
Published: May 21, 2018