Meredith Monk, an award-winning composer and singer whose groundbreaking exploration of the voice as an instrument expands the boundaries of musical composition, will visit St. Olaf College March 13 and 14 for a performance and series of workshops.
The concert, Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble: The Soul’s Messenger, will be held Tuesday, March 14, at 7:30 p.m. in the Lion’s Pause in Buntrock Commons, and will feature Monk with her world-renowned Vocal Ensemble members Katie Geissinger (voice), Bohdan Hilash (woodwinds), and Allison Sniffin (voice, keyboard).
The concert will be preceded by two workshops on Monday, March 13, in Christiansen Hall of Music 140. The workshop beginning at 4:30 p.m., led by Geissinger, will focus on “extended vocal techniques” specific to Monk’s repertoire. The workshop beginning at 7:30 p.m., led by Monk, will focus on the intersection of voice and movement.
All of the events will be free and open to the public.
Monk’s work unearths feelings, energies, and memories for which there are no words. She creates worlds that thrive at the intersection of music and movement, image and object, light and sound, discovering and weaving together new modes of perception.
“I saw her in Brooklyn a few years ago, and the way that she interacted with the audience and used movement in her performance was so cool,” says St. Olaf Jazz Conductor Dave Hagedorn, who organized Monk’s visit to campus. “She literally came and sang in the middle of the audience, right next to me.”
Monk has been dubbed “one of America’s coolest composers,” and her work has won a number of prestigious honors. President Barack Obama awarded her the National Medal of Arts in 2015, and she also received the MacArthur Foundation ‘Genius Grant’ Award in 1995.
“Meredith Monk is an enormously talented musician — she’s won virtually every major award and grant you can as an artist, and her work is incredible,” Hagedorn says. “It’s really exciting to have her come to St. Olaf.”
Monk was raised in New York and Connecticut, and is the fourth generation singer in her family. She graduated from Sarah Lawrence College with a combined degree in music, dance, and theater in 1964. Her career grew as she discovered the “extended vocal techniques” unique to her work, and through the founding of her own company, The House, dedicated to an interdisciplinary approach to performance. She formed Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble in 1978 to expand her musical textures and forms.
“If Monk is seeking a place in the classical firmament, classical music has much to learn from her,” Alex Ross wrote in the The New Yorker. “She may loom even larger as the new century unfolds, and later generations will envy those who got to see her live.”