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Meredith Jane Monk (born November 20, 1942, in New York Citymarker) is an Americanmarker composer, performer, director, vocalist, film-maker, and choreographer. Since the 1960s, Monk has created multi-disciplinary works which dwell in the spaces between music, theatre, and dance, recording extensively for ECM Records.

Life and work

Meredith Monk is primarily known for her vocal innovations, including a wide range of extended techniques, which she first developed in her solo performances prior to forming her own ensemble. In December 1961, she appeared at the "Actor's Playhouse" in Greenwich Village (NYC) as a solo dancer in an off-Broadway children's musical theater production of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," entitled "Scrooge" (music and lyrics by Norman Curtis; directed and choreographed by Patricia Taylor Curtis). In 1964, she graduated from Sarah Lawrence Collegemarker and in 1968 she founded The House, a company dedicated to an interdisciplinary approach to performance.

Monk's performances have influenced many artists, including Bruce Nauman, whom she met in San Franciscomarker in 1968. In 1978 Monk formed Meredith Monk and Vocal Ensemble (modelled after similar ensembles of musical colleagues such as Steve Reich and Philip Glass) to explore new and wider vocal textures and forms which often were contrasted with minimal instrumental textures. Monk then began a long-standing relationship with the Walker Art Centermarker, which continues to showcase her work to this day. Pieces from this time include Dolmen Music (1979), which also was recorded for her first album released at Manfred Eicher's record label ECM in 1981.

In the 1980s, Monk wrote and directed two films, Ellis Island (1981), and Book of Days (1988), which developed from a single idea; "One day during summer of 1984, as I was sweeping the floor of my house in the country, the image of a young girl (in black and white) and a medieval street in the Jewish community (also in black and white) came to me", as Monk recounts in the liner notes of the ECM-recording. Apart from the film, different versions exist of this piece; two for the concert hall, and an album, produced by Meredith Monk and Manfred Eicher as "a film for the ears."

In the early 1990s, Monk composed an opera called Atlas, which premiered in Houston Texasmarker in 1991. She has also written pieces for instrumental ensembles and symphony orchestras. Her first symphonic works were Possible Sky (2003) and Stringsongs (2004), which was commissioned by the Kronos Quartet. In 2005, events all over the world were held in celebration of the 40th anniversary of her career, including a concert in Carnegie Hallmarker featuring Björk, Terry Riley, DJ Spooky (who sampled Monk on his album Drums of Death), John Zorn, and the new music ensembles Alarm Will Sound and Bang on a Can All-Stars, along with the Pacific Mozart Ensemble.

Monk has won numerous awards, including a MacArthur Fellowship, and she holds honorary Doctor of Arts degrees from Bard Collegemarker, the University of the Arts marker, The Juilliard Schoolmarker, the San Francisco Art Institutemarker and the Boston Conservatory. In 2007, she received the Demetrio Stratos International Award for musical experimentation.

Her music was used in films by the Coen Brothers (The Big Lebowski, 1998) and Jean-Luc Godard (Nouvelle Vague, 1990 and Notre musique, 2004).

In a recent interview she said that her favourite music includes Brazilian music, especially Caetano Veloso's recordings, the music by Mildred Bailey ("the great jazz singer from the ‘30s and ‘40s"), and Bartók's cycle for piano Mikrokosmos.

Her partner was Mieke van Hoek who died in 2002.


"In most of my music, theater pieces and films, I try to express a sense of timelessness; of time as a recurring cycle."

--from the liner notes of the album Book of Days, ECM New Series (1990)

"I work in between the cracks, where the voice starts dancing, where the body starts singing, where theater becomes cinema."

--from Deborah Jowitt (ed.), Meredith Monk (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997)

"Björk did one of my songs, Gotham Lullaby. I'd heard her sing that [...] on an MP3 file one of my [voice] students gave me, and I found it really interesting. Then we met six months ago, and liked each other very much. She's a lovely spirit."

--from an Interview by Tony Montague in The Globe and Mail, November 11, 2005


Instrumental works

Vocal works

  • 16 Millimeter Earrings for voice, guitar and tapes (1966)
  • Juice: A Theater Cantata for 85 voices, Jew's harp and two violins (1969)
  • Vessel: An Opera Epic for 75 voices, electronic organ, dulcimer and accordion (1971)
  • Our Lady of Late for solo voice and wine glass (1972)
  • Quarry: An Opera for 38 voices, 2 pump organs, 2 soprano recorders, tape (1976)
  • Songs from the Hill for unaccompanied solo voice (1976)
  • Tablet for four voices, piano four hands, two soprano recorders (1976)
  • Dolmen Music for 6 voices, cello, percussion (1979)
  • The Games for 16 voices, synthesizer, keyboards, Flemish Bagpipes, bagpipes, Chinese horn and rauschpfeife (1983)
  • Astronaut Anthem for chorus a cappella (1983)
  • Panda Chant II for chorus a cappella (1984)
  • Book of Days for 25 voices, synthesizer, piano or 7 voices, synthesizer (Chamber Version) (1985) recorded for ECM
  • Scared Song, song for solo voice, synthesizer and piano (1986)
  • I Don't Know, song for solo voice and piano (1986)
  • Atlas: An Opera in Three Parts for 18 voices and chamber orchestra (1991)
  • Three Heavens and Hells for 4 voices (1992)
  • Volcano Songs (Solo) for solo voice, voice with taped voices and piano (1994)
  • Star Trek: Envoy for composing/directing/performing in the Den-Kai/Krikiki Ensemble (1995)
  • The Politics of Quiet for 10 voices, 2 keyboards, horn, violin, bowed psaltery (1996)
  • Magic Frequencies for 6 voices, 2 keyboards, percussion (1999)
  • Eclipse Variations for 4 voices, esraj, sampler, recorded in surround sound, commissioned by Starkland
  • Mercy for 6 voices, 2 keyboards, percussion, multiple woodwinds, violin (2001)
  • When There Were Work Songs for vocal ensemble (2002, commissioned by the Western Wind Vocal Ensemble)
  • Last Song for solo voice and piano (2003)
  • Impermanence for eight voices, piano, keyboard, marimba, vibraphone, percussion, violin, multiple woodwinds, bicycle wheel (2005)
  • Night for chorus and orchestra (1996/2005)
  • Songs of Ascension for vocal ensemble and string quartet (2006, commissioned by the Kronos Quartet, with Ann Hamilton)



  • 1993 - The Sensual Nature of Sound: 4 Composers - Laurie Anderson, Tania León, Meredith Monk, Pauline Oliveros. Directed by Michael Blackwood.
  • 1983 - Four American Comoposers "Meredith Monk." Directed by Peter Greenaway.
  • 1996 - Speaking of Dance: Conversations With Contemporary Masters of American Modern Dance. No. 22: Meredith Monk. American Dance Festival. Directed by Douglas Rosenberg.


  1. Allmusic

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