Meredith Monk: On Behalf of Nature

Meredith Monk​

On Behalf of Nature
Saturday, May 4, 2013 . 8PM
Meredith Monk
Meredith Monk photo by Jesse Frohman

Event Attributes

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Estimated Length: 
1 hour and 15 minutes with no intermission
Program Notes: 

“She may loom even larger as the new century unfolds, and later generations will envy those who got to see her live.” – Alex Ross, The New Yorker

Meredith Monk — iconic composer, singer, director/choreographer and filmmaker — creates works that thrive at the intersection of music and movement, image and object, light and sound, in an effort to discover and weave together new modes of perception.

A pioneer in what is now called “extended vocal technique” and “interdisciplinary performance,” Monk’s exploration of the voice as an instrument expands the boundaries of musical composition, creating landscapes of sound that unearth feelings, energies and memories for which there are no words.

For her newest music-theater work, On Behalf of Nature, Monk offers a poetic meditation on our intimate connection to nature and the fragility of its ecology. Within this world, Monk evokes the Buddhist notion of the existence of different realm categories—the idea of joining heaven and earth by way of human beings.

Drawing additional inspiration from writers and researchers who have sounded the alarm on the precarious state of our global ecology, Monk and her acclaimed Vocal Ensemble create a liminal space where human, natural and spiritual elements are woven into a delicate whole, in order to illuminate the interconnection and interdependency of us all.

Review by The Washington Post

If nature were to rise up and speak in defense of itself, its voice might sound like a Meredith Monk theater piece…The path-forging choreographer-composer-artist created the piece — theater without words, dance with voice — to embody “nonhuman entities” communicating through her as a spokesperson.

Monk is wise to prefer abstraction over narrative, aura over character, symbolism over clear meaning, which allows the viewer to map her work onto his or her own thoughts and perceptions…Only when she used video — to cover the change to white, transfigured costumes — did the work become too literal.

– CHARLES T. DOWNEY, The Washington Post, Sunday, May 5, 2013

Preview by The Gazette

“I started thinking about how conscious are we as people in relation to what we’re doing,” said Monk. “I started thinking about how I could make a piece that somehow articulated ... what we’re in danger of losing ... That really fascinated me and I just started working on it.”

The result is a multimedia piece that Monk calls “very pure, very simple” and “very clear.” But at the same time, the artist insists the performance has “a lot of layers.”

– CARA HEDGEPETH, The Gazette, Thursday, May 2, 2013

Preview by The Washington Post

It’s hard to pin down in what sense a Monk piece is “about” anything. But certainly some of her previous pieces have included clear vignettes…And “On Behalf of Nature,” her ecological opera, couldn’t do anything so clear-cut. Its most literal reflection of its theme: recycling.

– ANNE MIDGETTE, The Washington Post, Friday, April 26, 2013

Review of the work's premiere at the Center for the Art Performance at UCLA

Most of all, Monk's music inspires a state of wonder ideal for divining nature...The result is some of the finest music Monk has yet written.

– MARK SWED, Los Angeles Times, January 21, 2013