Meredith Monk | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Meredith Monk


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Composer/singer/performance artist Meredith Monk is a potent combination of vocal priestess and avant-garde diva. Named a MacArthur Fellow in 1995, she has described her work as an attempt to create "art that cleanses the senses" and to reach toward "emotion that we have no words for." Her rich, controlled voice moans, howls, and trills to make music that's a ritual of modulations and palpably physical melodic turns, evoking dream narratives and deep-felt memories. Since her early work in 1964 with the interdisciplinary ensemble at the Judson Dance Theater in Greenwich Village, she has developed hypnotic, hybrid performances using vocal techniques from Balkan song, chant, opera, folk songs, yodeling, and guttural percussive vibratos. Best known for Dolmen Music and Turtle Dreams, she turns music into a kinetic force, giving the ear primacy over the eye and manipulating musical contradictions with virtuosic ease. Atlas (1991) was one of the most beautiful operas I have dreamed through, an ambitious quest narrative told through lyrical and interwoven melodies and wordless syllables. Her work is often compared to Philip Glass's, and though she shares his precision and some of his cycling repetition, she's much richer--her earthy voice carrying a narrative energy that is often deeply moving and always playful. Monk will be performing Volcano Songs as the featured artist this Saturday at Columbia College's 20th-anniversary celebration of the interdisciplinary arts master's program. Saturday, 7 and 9 PM, Dance Center of Columbia College, 4730 N. Sheridan; 989-3310. CAROL BURBANK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.

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