MEREDITH MONK Impermanence

In her album Impermanence, Meredith Monk succeeds in creating pieces that fit her theme well and much of this music does indeed seem ephemeral, fleeting. These works are not casually or routinely constructed, though; their apparent simplicity masks a psychological and musical sophistication that's evident in the way their carefully placed details contribute to their surprising impact. The prevailing mood of the album is melancholy, but not passive sadness; even the songs that deal most explicitly with loss, such as Last Song (which opens the album) and Liminal, are punctuated with astonishing, defiant gestural outbursts that make it clear that Monk has no intention of going gentle into that good night. One of the strengths of the album is the variety of its pieces; Monk is never repeating herself or just recycling ideas. Pieces such as Particular Dance, for voices and mixed ensemble, are lively and full of unpredictable humor, and Maybe 1, for eight pianos, is a quirky, minimalist-inspired bagatelle. The textural variety of the pieces is also appealing; almost all of them use voices in one way or another, but the voice is often used instrumentally or as accompaniment to the instruments. Monk and her ensemble perform with great delicacy and sensitivity to each other; this is clearly a group of singers and instrumentalists that knows how to listen, and each member is constantly calibrating his or her contribution with the sounds of the others, as in the best chamber music performances. ECM's sound is immaculate. The album is a significant addition to Monk's discography and should be of strong interest to fans of new vocal music that pushes the envelope but is still accessible and engaging. 

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