Her stature is small and now somewhat shaky, but Meredith Monk, the American pioneer of contemporary vocal music, fills the busy Amari Concert Hall in The Hague with her presence alone. Tension rises in the air as this woman walks onto a giant stage alongside the three singers of her vocal ensemble. Recognizable among the thousands, with her long black braids on her shoulders and as always she wears a cubist kimono.
She will be 80 this year, and her arrival at the Hague Progressive Music Festival Rewire is a programmatic success. Not only because her work is unique and it is characteristic that the composer and voice artist still performs at such a advanced age, including her famous dance moves. But also because during the festival, Rewire presents the monk as a great source of inspiration to the many new generations of female singers mainly, who use their voice as an instrument, just like the creator of New York.
On Saturday, after Monk’s concert with The Bang on Can All-Stars, a long line will be drawn through the show with followers and new vocal warriors. This makes it possible to compare the work, which was still avant-garde in the eighties, but can now be considered part of the canon of modern classical music, with acoustic neo-pop and experimental music.
Monk drew a strong selection from her catalog, especially work she wrote in the 1980s. The opening piece of a science fiction opera the gamesComposed in 1984, it still sounds modern, thanks to the shimmering keyboard tone and clarinet that swings across it. immigration Then there’s such a monk formation that hypnotizes you, with voices that just say “wah-wah”, but always with a different timbre, so that you end up as a listener in different areas of emotion. Usually monk voices don’t make any sense, but there is a lot of eloquence, as they run the gamut of human emotions, sometimes taking you to heaven and then straight to hell again, with loud ringed voices laughing in your face.
The sounds of harmony, timing, and playing with the marimba and keyboards are amazing, although you can hear the subtlety of the monk’s voice decreasing slightly. It makes her work even more impressive, because it is precisely the somewhat older voice that makes a moving human voice, reporting on life.
The high standard makes work difficult for their successors. American singer Alexandra Drushin aka Eartheater, a new avant-garde icon, attracts a cult-like following to Grote Kerk, but her performance lacks persuasiveness, and the magnetism of a monk. Its violin-scratching folk and laptop ambiance are murky, but still a bit snooty under the eyes of the church.
Norwegian singer Jenny Hval also has trouble in the stage and hall. Her latest literary album Classic Objects Lovely, and her soft, clean and sometimes mean voice just comes of its own right there. But in the theatre’s mix of sound, drums and guitars so brutish are pushing them down, that even poems are hard to follow.
Then at 1 am, she thinks almost backwards nostalgic at that wonderful performance by Monk and her “people from another planet,” as she once described her music. You want to grab a missile and fly towards it.
Meredith Monk wrote her acoustic opera the games 1984 in Berlin, in the midst of the Cold War. The threat came from the east, and the nuclear warheads were supplied from the west, she said as a precursor to her performance at the Amari Concert Hall in The Hague. Monk wrote her songs about the apocalypse and a new human trying to remember the culture of previous humanity wiped out by a nuclear catastrophe. Given the situation on the world stage, the piece again seems relevant, which is why it was also impressive. In 2020, Monk re-recorded her opera for the album memory game†
With Meredith Monk, Jenny Haval, Eartheather, E
From 7 to 10/4, different locations, The Hague.