Monk: On Behalf of Nature

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Meredith Monk
LABELS: ECM
ALBUM TITLE: Monk
WORKS: On Behalf of Nature
PERFORMER: Meredith Monk and Vocal Ensemble; Bohdan Hilash (woodwinds), John Hollenbeck (percussion), Allison Sniffin (piano, keyboard, violin, French horn), Laura Sherman (harp)
CATALOGUE NO: 481 2794

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Meredith Monk’s compositions and performances transcend genre, conjuring bold soundworlds through innovative vocal techniques and, perhaps most profoundly, rediscovering music as a site of ritual and transformation. This magical disc is both rite and protest, inspired by poet and environmental activist Gary Snyder who calls for the artist to stand as ‘spokesperson for non-human entities… to speak on behalf of nature’. Monk’s response is a meditation on our fragile ecosystem, though avoiding the polemical through her characteristic sense of wonder and play.

In 19 short movements, the work is scored for vocal ensemble and shifting configurations of winds, percussion, keys and harp. Movements range from tautly-constructed overlapping phrases (‘Fractal Activity’) to echoes of central Asian shamanistic chant (‘Ritual Zone’), while more experimental vocal passages transcend any formal tonality: ‘Environs 3’ see voices surging and whooping to capture something of both whirring engines and an animal’s call of alarm.

The recording is crisp and all performances strong.

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Kate Wakeling