I had the great pleasure of speaking with American composer Meredith Monk almost a year ago for Buzz. There was excitement over her new video piece, ROTATION, which was a part of a larger work: Indra’s Net. A concert version of the event would finally be filmed and performed, after plans since 2014 and the pandemic delaying things even further. Though international audiences still have to wait a little longer for the Kickstarter-funded ROTATION.
Performed at Jeannik Méquet Littlefield Concert Hall near San Francisco, we got the livestreamed world premiere of a really lovely piece. Rich in Hindu and Buddhist legends, Indra’s Net itself being the net covering the whole universe, speckled with jewels – there’s a lot you can work with. The heavens, earth and underground all seem to feature as Monk and her singers weave around the space, shared by passionate instrumental students on both sides of the stage.
Without a word said aloud during Indra’s Net, there are frequent conversations through the vocalisation – a simple formula, with a great impact. A piano part also proves Monk’s skill with the instrument as well as vocals. Some images linger: the trio of female voices, the men huddled in a corner barking and grunting and the lovely posturing of the hands throughout. There are familiar faces in her ensemble, including Theo Bleckmann and Ellen Fischer – along with other powerful vocalists, all clad in loose, white linen clothes designed by Yoshio Yabara.
The singers glow within their overtones and the percussive mouth work is always a delightful sight. Monk’s blocking is always immaculate, choreography which always considers the space it is in and never compromises, gentle and affirming. The second part of the work opened with a few solos, an angular quartet with flute and bassoon providing a highlight – though the teeth-chattering, clucking and nagging vocals with bonus lip-smacks may have provided sustenance for lovers of ASMR out there.
A bright and breezy, unfurling ending made me feel that everything was fine in the world. I’m looking forward to finally seeing ROTATION.
words JAMES ELLIS
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