Biography All Music Guide
All Music Guide:
One of the first and best "performance artists," Meredith Monk's work is some of the least contrived and most convincing in that amorphously defined genre. Though largely and perhaps primarily a musician, Monk combines sound with movement, image, and object, creating an art that defies category. Her unconventional treatment of the voice as a musical instrument unto itself is arguably her greatest innovation; no other Western artist has done more to extend the art of the wordless vocal. Born in Peru of American parents, Monk was raised in New York and Connecticut. She studied eurhythmics, an educational method that related music to movement, in her youth. She attended Sarah Lawrence College in New York's Westchester County, receiving her bachelor of arts degree in 1964. Monk also studied voice with Vicki Starr, John Devers, and Jeanette Lovetri; composition with Ruth Lloyd, Richard Averee, and Glenn Mack; and piano with Gershon Konikow. In 1968, she formed her first group, the House, as a vehicle for exploring her concepts of interdisciplinary performance, combining extended vocal techniques with dance, theater, film, and other elements. Monk received the first of two Guggenheim fellowships in 1972 (the other came ten years later). She formed Meredith Monk and Vocal Ensemble in 1978, and recorded a number of highly acclaimed albums, among them Dolmen Music (ECM New Series, 1981) and Our Lady of Late: The Vanguard Tapes (Wergo, 1986); both of which won the German Critic's Prize. Other awards include several honorary doctorates, 16 ASCAP awards for musical composition, the 1986 National Music Theatre Award, and three Obies. In 1995, she was awarded a MacArthur "genius" award. In July 2000, New York's Lincoln Center Festival honored Monk with a three-concert retrospective of her music, entitled Voice Travel. Her music has also been heard in films, including Godard's La Nouvelle Vague and the Coen Brothers' The Big Lebowski.