WTF?! Wednesdays: Meredith Monk, “Unison” (1990)

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She’s a composer. She’s a MacDowell Fellow. She’s a choreographer. The fact is, it’s kind of hard to define exactly what Meredith Monk does in a simple phrase. But no matter…because the one description needed this week is this: minimalist.

Oh sure, you hear that word tossed around, do a quick Internet search, and end up with tons of boilerplate concerning Philip Glass, Steve Reich, and John Cage. The problem is, so many of the “meet the minimalists” literature fails to mention Meredith Monk and her unique vocal compositions

But this isn’t a treatise on Monk. It’s instead a quick appreciation for a truly minimal work of art. “Unison” may not be to everybody’s liking (“Not to everybody’s liking,” the kinder, gentler alter-ego of WTF?! Wednesdays), but that’s obviously not why I’m here. In this piece, it is just Monk’s voice and the ringing of a wine glass. The majority of the time is spent with her voice and the glass gliding along the same note. It’s when Monk pulls a semi-tone away that things get interesting. That dissonant beating is pure tension. It’s beautiful too, though I’d be hard-pressed to explain why.

(“Unison” begins at the two and a half minute mark)

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Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he originated several of our weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Mark Saleski
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