Friday, December 18, 2015

Your weekend must-see: Monk meets Waldman

Meredith Monk (left) and Anne Waldman
present their first collaboration.
(photo: Ian Douglas)

This week, Danspace Project hosts the first collaboration of two mages--Meredith Monk and Anne Waldman. That would be enough even without Pat Steir's paintings gushing fine, vibrant lines of vascular light from the altar wall. The evening--eighty minutes without intermission--is saturated by elemental sound, color, movement, intensity and mastery, crossing artificial barriers between word and body, song and image, human presence and the rest of nature.

Anne Waldman
(photo: Ian Douglas)

Waldman's opening set--Entanglement Variations, an incantation-in-progress--ensnares the listener. The spidery performer--part-rock star, part-downhome preacher, part-esoteric flimflam artist--stalks, distills, distorts and transmutes a motherload of words into fluid, musical sounds, clicking and hooting, gliding and hissing out her sticky, steely net. Monk, joined by ensemble members Katie Geissinger and Allison Sniffin and dancer Ellen Fisher, follows up with a five-song set including a work-in-progress, Cellular Songs, and makes the most of the sanctuary's warmth, dignity and sacred acoustics.

Meredith Monk
with Allison Sniffin (left) and Katie Geissinger (right),
members of Meredith Monk Vocal Ensemble
(photo: Ian Douglas)

Even without Fisher's expressive dancing (in Scared Song), it's possible to perceive the action of nerves, blood and breath inside Monk's vocal music. It feels sufficiently close to one's own internal moves and produces a near-immediate mirroring effect. Monk takes us wherever she likes, and the best of these journeys happens in between song (from impermanence), with its lyrics by Mieke van Hoek, her collaborator and companion, who passed in 2002. If there is anyone who can transport a listener, through sound, to that space "between the clouds and the night...between your hand and my hand...between the seed and the dirt," it is Meredith Monk.

Monk and Waldman
(photo: Ian Douglas)

The concluding set brings Monk and Waldman together in a juxtaposition of works and voices. The first piece--Wa-lie-oh/[Endangered] Living Thread--sounds forced, an unwieldy pattern, alternating Waldman's wilderness drift with Monk's more organized containment. But, once past that tentative beginning, they find a groove to share to the end of the night.

With sound by Ambrose Bye and lighting by Carol Mullins

Meredith Monk & Anne Waldman continues tonight and concludes  with Saturday's benefit performance for Danspace Project and The House Foundation for the Arts. As of last evening, tickets for Saturday were still available. Both evenings start at 8pm. For information, click here.

Danspace Project
St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery
131 East 10th Street (at Second Avenue), Manhattan
(map/directions)

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