FOR OVER FIFTY YEARS, Meredith Monk has created critically acclaimed musical, operatic, theatrical, cinematic, and visual installation works. Her performance work incorporates three-octave vocalizing, idiosyncratic gestural movement, film, and luminous stage design, inviting audiences to experience archetypal, dreamlike spectacles. The New Yorker called her “as close to a complete performing artist as American culture offers.”
Monk came of age artistically in 1960s New York. Audiences were ushered in and out of her live-work loft as part of multi-venue epics that included site-specific components in the Guggenheim Museum and a parking lot in lower Manhattan. Largescale events with 150-member casts alternated with intimate pieces for solo voice and wine glass. These days, her work continues to be performed in a variety of settings—in concert halls, galleries, and site-specific venues around the world.
Monk has received fellowships from major foundations and was the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship. She was composer in residence at Carnegie Hall in the 2014-15 season, and received the National Medal of Arts from President Obama in 2015.
Monk’s polyphonic music has been recorded by her own ensemble in eighteen recordings. Jean-Luc Goddard, the Coen brothers, Terrence Malick, and David Byrne have featured her music in films. The Kronos Quartet, St. Louis Symphony, and San Francisco Symphony have commissioned new scores. In April, conductor Michael Tilson Thomas included her work in a Pride concert with the San Francisco Symphony.
I spoke with Meredith Monk in March while she was in Minneapolis visiting the Walker Art Center, which acquired material from one of her first iconic performances, 16 Millimeter Earrings (1966/98).