Meredith Monk

CD18,90 out of print

An important new musical work, Meredith Monk’s eighth ECM recording is released just prior to the 60th birthday of the composer. For almost 40 years, the great interdisciplinary artist has been overturning categories, transcending the limitations of any of the idioms. “mercy” was first unleashed in America as a multi-media stage work which Monk realized together with noted installation artist Ann Hamilton. The album, though, is far more than a ‘soundtrack’. Not only did some of the music predate the stage work – incorporating several pieces that Meredith had written before joining forces with Hamilton – the stage material has been rigorously rearranged with “many changes, compressions, expansions of forms.” Meredith’s Monk’s work touches on so many areas, but at the heart of it is singing, exploring the human voice in all its possibilities. Her innovations in what is now called “extended vocal technique” have been enormously influential. When she began her vocal pioneering, in 1965, this area was largely unexplored. Since then echoes of Monk’s work can be heard across the genres, influencing artists as diverse as Joan La Barbara and Kate Bush, Laurie Anderson and Björk (whose current live set includes Meredith’s “Gotham Lullaby”).

Featured Artists Recorded

March 2002, Sorcerer Sound, New York

Original Release Date


  • 1braid 1 and leaping song
    (Meredith Monk)
  • 2braid 2
    (Meredith Monk)
  • 3urban march (shadow)
    (Meredith Monk)
  • 4masks
    (Meredith Monk)
  • 5line 1
    (John Hollenbeck)
  • 6doctor / patient
    (Meredith Monk)
  • 7line 2
    (John Hollenbeck)
  • 8woman at the door
    (Meredith Monk)
  • 9line 3 and prisoner
    (John Hollenbeck)
  • 10epilogue
    (Meredith Monk)
  • 11shaking
    (Meredith Monk)
  • 12liquid air
    (Meredith Monk)
  • 13urban march (light)
    (Meredith Monk)
  • 14core chant
    (Meredith Monk)
Ostensibly a response to watching a Palestinian father and son fall prey to crossfire on the Gaza Strip, mercy journeys beyond grieving or anger to a meditative state that hints at both but submits to neither. The style is coolly contrapuntal: the opening "braid" unfolds like a slow vocal fugue then grows more agitated around the twominute mark as the piano enters and a woman protests across the musical line. Or ist it protest' More voices join in and the mellifluous accompaniment helps turn the tables for what sounds more like celebration. This energetic ambiguity is typical of Monk. ... mercy appears to reflect elements of Reich-style minimalism, Satie-style economy, early vocal music and rustic harmonic twists typical of Bartók, Janácek, Enescu and the like. The modest resources used - a handful of voices, clarinets, tuned percussion, synthesiser, melodica, violin, viola - meld or converse unpremeditated, much as they would in a folk group. mercy is an outgrowth both of Monk's maturity and the maturing musical trends that surround her. Like its subject, it is very much of our time. I was very taken with it.
Rob Cowan, Gramophone
If you can hear echoes of Kate Bush, Diamanda Galas, Laurie Anderson or Björk in the work of Meredith Monk, it's not surprising: Monk got there first. The American composer, choreographer and singer is a pioneer of what have become known as extended vocal techniques, using her voice as an instrument to communicate complex ideas and emotions without the benefit of conventional lyrics or text. ... Meredith Monk's latest album, mercy, is her eighth for the ECM label, for whom she first recorded in 1981, and it documents the music for a multimedia theatre-piece... Originally inspired by the news image of a Palestinian father and son caught in crossfire on the Gaza Strip, mercy developed into a meditation on the idea of mercy in history... Musically, mercy more than stands up for itself, offering, as well as many elements familiar from previous Monk works, a number of new departures for the composer, who has credited three of the 14 segments to collaborators in her ensemble. Among the pluses are a beguiling Eastern quality to much of the music; the woody sound of Bohdan Hilash's clarinets; and the welcome associations with Steve Reich's mid-period minimalism evoked by both the vocal ensemble and John Hollenbeck's percussion, melodica and piano.
Phil Johnson, The Independent
mercy, premiered in 2001, is a performance piece about the human ability to extend or withhold compassion, derived with the video and installation artist Ann Hamilton. ... This hour's worth of music, scored for seven voices, piano, percussion, clarinets, viola, violin and synthesizer, certainly casts a sad and beautiful spell. Monk's vocal techniques have taken her from time to time to places other singers rarely visit - screaming, for instance. But here, fittingly, she herself shows mercy, and the natural timbres of her vocal troupe blend with the largely unprocessed sounds of strings and wood to provide the aural equivalent of an organic food store. No preservatives. No insecticides. Music coloured white and grey, almost like eating tofu ... Monk's music has never achieved the popular success that Glass, Adams and, to some extent, Reich have found; but she has kept true to her muse, and in times of stress, it's a muse worth knowing.
Geoff Brown, The Times
Das gerade bei ECM erschienene Album mit dem Titel mercy umfasst, umarmt, umspielt, umgreift zahllose Spielarten von Emotion, von Stimmung, von Farbe. Und erinnert auch in dieser achten Produktion, die Meredith Monk für das Münchner Edel-Label erstellte, an die Verwurzeltheit solcher als minimal verspotteter "minimal music" in ihrer maximalen Weitung an deren Eingebundensein ins Ganze weltweiten Musikdenkens. Unsemantische Vokalismen, die etwas Emotionales sagen, Bewegungen, die erkennbar musikalische Formen sind, Räume, die einen Sound oder einen Kontrapunkt bedeuten oder Farben, die als Melodie zu verstehen sind, markieren die synästhetische Praxis der im Umfeld aktueller Musiken einzigartig dastehenden, erklingenden, sich im wahrsten Sinn des Wortes als "Performerin" selbst darstellenden Ausnahme-Künstlerin.
Wolf Loeckle, CD aktuell, Bayerischer Rundfunk
Die in Peru geborene, von Russen abstammende Performance-Künstlerin Meredith Monk aus New York gehört zu einer anderen, möglicherweise genuin amerikanischen Artisten-Spezies: zu den überzeugt Neugierigen. Dass sie nichts mehr entdecken könne, käme ihr schon deshalb nicht in den Sinn, weil sie sich ständig fortbewegt. ... So wie zweisprachig aufwachsende Kinder oft denken, was sie sagen, seien nur verschiedene Ausdrucksweisen einer einzigen Sprache, so waren auch für Monk Musik und Bewegung, Stimme und Körper untrennbar miteinander verbunden, gewissermaßen mehrere Möglichkeiten einer einzigen künstlerischen Expression. Aus der Idee einer Unteilbarkeit von Ton und Bewegung entwickelte sie in fast vier Jahrzehnten allmählich eine künstlerische Sprache, die nicht nur Musik, Tanz, Bildformen und Theater schier unauflöslich miteinander verbindet, sondern konsequent auch noch die Hierarchien zwischen den verschiedenen künstlerischen Medien auflöst. ... Wie reich die Palette ihrer vokalen Ausdruckskunst ist, macht die neue Einspielung unter dem Titel mercy bewusst, die auf ein Multimedia-Werk zurückgeht, das Meredith Monk vor einiger Zeit mit der bildenden Künstlerin Ann Hamilton realisiert hat, darüber hinaus aber auch frühere Vokalwerke von ihr aufgreift.Wie stets bei Monk muss man, um die teilweise miniaturhaft verschlossenen Stücke bewusst aufnehmen zu können, Kategorien von tradierten musikalischen Formen und konventionellem Gesang hinter sich lassen. Was das um Klavier, Synthesizer, solistische Streichinstrumente, Vibraphon, Marimbaphon, Perkussion und verschiedene Klarinetten erweiterte Vokalensemble hier vorstellt, wirkt wie das litaneiartige Beschwören einer nichtverbalen Ausdruckskunst, die aus Urwelten zu stammen scheint, in einem unterirdischen Strom die Zeiten überdauert hat, durch eine in die Tiefe hinabgestiegene Künstlerin wieder zutage gefördert und mit neuen Lautgedichten verbunden wurde... Wunderschön und sinnlos - also Musik an sich.
Wolfgang Sandner, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung