The pieces in Tzadik's collection of early works by Meredith Monk have either never been released before or are heard in performances released here for the first time. Since her 1981 album Dolmen Music, Monk has recorded for ECM, and these selections (including some live performances) all predate that release. The album begins with a disarmingly simple version of Greensleeves, made in 1966; it's intriguing to hear Monk's distinctive voice conventionally used in a folk song. Monk tends work in large musical forms -- multimedia events, many of which she designates as operas -- but which are made up of smaller discrete components, and these excerpts make up the bulk of the album. The larger works represented here include Vessel, an opera epic; Education of the Girlchild, an opera; and Quarry, an opera in three movements. On many of the tracks, Monk sings alone, either a cappella or accompanying herself on a single instrument. An exception is Quarry Weave for women's voices, a remarkable example of choral minimalist counterpoint. Even in the earliest work, Nota for voice and guitar from 1966 (predating Terry Riley's In C by two years), Monk's distinctive form of minimalism is recognizable. These stylistically varied selections, from chant to rock song to complex vocal polyphony, highlight Monk's remarkable voice and the visceral expressiveness of her extended vocal techniques, which don't sound like products of modernism, but like explosions of primal energy. The emotions she conjures are elemental, ranging from the scarily keening grief of Biography to the loose-limbed wackiness of The Tale. The album is a treasure for any fan of Monk's who wants to hear what she was doing early in her career, before her works were regularly recorded commercially.
Recorded January 2007 Avatar Studios, New York
An ECM Production
Piano: Steinway & Sons
Thanks to Franklin Station Cafe, Peter Sciscioli,
Jonathan Nye, Rosetta Life
In memoriam Mike van Hoek (1946-2002)