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Cued Up

Meredith Monk: On the Up and Up

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This week, Cued Up dives head first into the fearless, mystical sound world of composer-vocalist Meredith Monk. Recorded during New Sounds Live in The Greene Space at WNYC/WQXR, Meredith Monk and Vocal Ensemble and the Todd Reynolds Quartet (featuring Q2's own Nadia Sirota) perform excerpts from Monk's latest work, Songs of Ascension. Also included is a Bang on a Can Marathon performance of Monk's Stringsongs.

In Songs of Ascension, Monk questions and celebrates the almost universally shared symbolism and implications of "up" being a spiritual ticket. “Why is up more sacred than down?” she ponders.

Never skimping on either concept or musicality, she draws from a smorgasbord of ear candy, from a Lao mouth organ called the khene (which sounds like some soundbite of glitched-out trance music) to the Indian shruti box drones to Monk's shamanistic vocal virtuosity. The singers sputter with percussive playfulness.

In the Bang on a Can Marathon performance of Stringsongs, Monk evokes the voice through the strings of the Todd Reynolds Quartet (also heard in Songs of Ascension). Her first string quartet, the piece explores texture and raw emotion that achieves maximum impact with minimum components.

Here are two video-snippets from the Songs of Ascension show: Spring Variations and Strand (Gathering):