Last week's Amtrak adventure was a byproduct of my need to get up to New York for some rehearsals: I have a March 6 performance at Symphony Space looming. Astute observers of TSR may have noticed that an icon for The M6 has appeared in one of the sidebars to the right; click on through for concert details.
One night about two and a half years ago, Heather Wings and I let ourselves into the basilica of Mission Dolores, dodging janitors and clergy, to record an audition tape. The yield from that effort was one of the most mentally vigorous weeklong experiences of my life, an experience shared with 18 performers who had come from Uruguay and Israel, Serbia and northern Wisconsin, to work intensively with Meredith Monk. We had six days to learn and memorize a full concert program from scratch, in many cases without notation, and with movement. We performed this program in Carnegie's Zankel Hall on the seventh day, which I assure you was among the least restful sabbaths in history. As Anne Midgette wrote in her NY Times feature about the project, "People often describe [Meredith's music] as simple. But anyone who thinks it is easy has never tried to sing it."
I can say with certainty that there's no way this group of performers would ever have come together on the same path without Meredith as a beacon. We were a professional whistler and a vocal performance DMA, a rolfing practitioner and a film actress, a Latin jazz singer and a performance art scholar—an almost absurdly unrelated group of people, who nonetheless shared the desire to understand Meredith's work better by performing it. The experience was exhausting, yet musically, intellectually and even spiritually satisfying and inspiring in ways I could never have anticipated. And we all then we went our separate ways, back to London and Den Haag and San Francisco.
Then last August, I got a call out of the blue from one of the performers, Holly Nadal, who has made a personal project of transcribing Meredith's work. "Do you want to sing Dolmen Music again?", she said, and that question has led to six of us—me, Holly, Sasha Bogdanowitsch, Emily Eagen, Silvie Jensen, and Peter Sciscioli—deciding to come back together, forming a new group called The M6: Meredith Monk Music Third Generation.
Meredith's extraordinary, uncategorizable, four-decade career has been extensively documented, but for those who don't know, there are a number of works early in her career that were performed exclusively by herself or with a very small number of other people. A significant shift happened when she began to create works on other performers, but since much of her work is created and taught in the oral tradition, generally she has shared the stage in performances of her music.
The M6 has now found itself in the (kind of unbelievably!!) privileged position to be among the very few to be personally coached by Meredith—in some cases on pieces that have never been performed by anyone other than Meredith herself—to pass on these profoundly beautiful works that are part of a living icon's legacy. So for those of you who follow TSR regularly, there's some insight on why it seems like I've been out East seemingly every other week for the past several months.
As you know, I don't normally use this blog as a place to pimp the stuff I'm involved with, but I'm hope that perhaps some folks out there will find this project of interest. (If you're one of them, you're welcome to befriend us on MySpace and/or Facebook.) Our big show is on Thursday, March 6, and it closes the four-concert Meredith Monk/Multi-Musics series at Symphony Space that Steve Smith wrote about today.
Obviously this is going to occupy a certain portion of my thoughts for the next couple of weeks, so don't be surprised if you see some more posts on this subject. I hope you won't mind following along on the journey.