MEREDITH MONK is a composer, singer, director/choreographer and creator of new opera, music theater works, films and installations. A pioneer in what is now called “extended vocal technique” and “interdisciplinary performance,” Monk creates works that thrive at the intersection of music and movement, image and object, light and sound in an effort to discover and weave together new modes of perception. Her groundbreaking exploration of the voice as an instrument, as an eloquent language in and of itself, expands the boundaries of musical composition, creating landscapes of sound that unearth feelings, energies, and memories for which there are no words. She has alternately been proclaimed as a “magician of the voice” and “one of America’s coolest composers.” During a career that spans more than 45 years she has been acclaimed by audiences and critics as a major creative force in the performing arts.
Since graduating Sarah Lawrence College in 1964, Monk has received numerous awards including the prestigious MacArthur “Genius” Award in 1995, two Guggenheim Fellowships, a Brandeis Creative Arts Award, three “Obies” (including an award for Sustained Achievement), two Villager Awards, two “Bessie” awards for Sustained Creative Achievement, the 1986 National Music Theatre Award, the 1992 Dance Magazine Award, and a 2005 ASCAP Concert Music Award. In 2006 she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and named a United States Artists Fellow. In 2010 she was awarded a Letter of Distinction from the American Music Center. Monk holds honorary Doctor of Arts degrees from Bard College, the University of the Arts, The Juilliard School, the San Francisco Art Institute and the Boston Conservatory.
In 1968 Ms. Monk founded The House, a company dedicated to an interdisciplinary approach to performance. In 1978 she formed Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble to expand her musical textures and forms. She has made more than a dozen recordings, most of which are on the ECM New Series label, including the 2008 Grammy-nominated impermanence. Dolmen Music (ECM New Series) and Our Lady of Late: The Vanguard Tapes (Wergo) were honored with the German Critics Prize for Best Records of 1981 and 1986. Her music has also been performed by many notable soloists and groups including Bang on a Can All-Stars, Björk, The Chorus of the San Francisco Symphony, Double Edge, Musica Sacra, and The Pacific Mozart Ensemble, among others. It can also be heard in numerous films, including La Nouvelle Vague by Jean-Luc Godard and The Big Lebowski by Joel and Ethan Coen. In 2000, Monk began a publishing relationship with Boosey & Hawkes. A number of her scores, including her Piano Album, have since been made available to the general public.
Monk is a pioneer in site-specific performance, creating works such as Juice: A Theatre Cantata In 3 Installments (1969) at the Guggenheim Museum, and American Archeology #1: Roosevelt Island (1994). In 2009 she was invited back to the Guggenheim for Ascension Variations, featuring over 120 performers. Monk is also an accomplished filmmaker who has made a series of award-winning films including Ellis Island (1981) and her first feature, Book Of Days (1988), which was aired on PBS, shown at the New York Film Festival and selected for the Whitney Museum’s Biennial. Both films were released on DVD in February 2007. A retrospective art exhibition, Meredith Monk: Archeology of an Artist, opened at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center in 1996. Other recent art exhibits are comprised of a major installation, Art Performs Life at The Walker Art Center, a show, Shrines at the Frederieke Taylor / TZ’ Art Gallery, inclusion in the 2002 Biennial at the Whitney Museum, ev+a 2002 Exhibition at Limerick City Gallery of Art and group exhibits Show People at Exit Art and Between Thought and Sound: Graphic Notation in Contemporary Music at The Kitchen. A monograph, Meredith Monk, edited by Deborah Jowitt was released by Johns Hopkins Press in 1997. The documentary film Meredith Monk: Inner Voice by filmmaker Babeth VanLoo, and a CD of Monk’s archival recordings titled Beginnings on John Zorn’s Tzadik Records, were both released in 2009.
In October 1999 Monk performed a Vocal Offering for His Holiness, the Dalai Lama as part of the World Festival of Sacred Music in Los Angeles. In July 2000 her music was honored by a three concert retrospective entitled Voice Travel as part of the Lincoln Center Festival. Monk’s first orchestra piece, Possible Sky (commissioned by Michael Tilson Thomas for the New World Symphony), premiered in April 2003 in Miami and was performed by the Hamburg Symphony in 2006. Stringsongs, her first composition for string quartet (commissioned by the Kronos Quartet) had its world premiere at the Barbican Center in January 2005. In November 2005, Monk’s 40th year of performing and creating new music was celebrated by a four-hour marathon at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall. Another marathon, Meredith Monk Music @ The Whitney, was presented at the Whitney Museum in 2009.
Monk’s most recent commission for an orchestra piece was from Grand Center Inc. and the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra. WEAVE for Two Voices, Chamber Orchestra and Chorus premiered in St. Louis in March 2010 and was performed by the Los Angeles Master Chorale in April 2010. Her latest music theater work, Songs of Ascension, premiered in October 2008 and was performed at BAM’s Next Wave Festival in October 2009 and the Edinburgh International Festival in August 2010 where it received the Herald’s Angel Award. The work is currently touring internationally. In June 2010, Monk premiered Education of the Girlchild Revisited in Paris. This evening-length work is comprised of her legendary solo from Education of the Girlchild (1972) and Shards, a reconfiguration of music, images and movement from the Girlchild period (1969-1973). In January 2011, Monk was named one of NPR’s 50 Great Voices.