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Monk; Meredith: Songs Of Ascension

Being fortunate enough to write for a site like Sea of Tranquilty has led me to experience a huge amount of new music and genre styles that would otherwise have passed me by. Not only did being sent an album by Vanden Plas allow me to rediscover inventive and innovative prog metal, but listening to music by the likes of Terje Rypdal and Lars Dietrich opened my eyes to a style of jazz I never knew existed. Every now and again however a CD pops through my letter box which in truth is just a step too far. And so it is with Songs Of Ascension by Meredith Monk.

Monk has a long and distinguished history composing theatrical music that often contains no lyrics, instead relying on the human voice to create sounds that tell stories through their tone and emotion, to the extent that it is as if she has created a new language through which the voices communicate in an almost tribal or animal way. The music itself comprises of these voices, as well as strings and all manner of other ethnic instruments, brought together for a piece of music that was initially composed for performance. The pictures in the CD booklet, which are quite stunning, show the ensemble cast in a wide, circular stair well, with instrumentalists sitting in alcoves, as the singers stand on the stairs. The images are evocative and captivating and in this, or any other live setting I have no doubt that this sparsely arranged, almost religious music would be utterly spellbinding. However as a sit at home CD listening experience, much of that deep, dark, threatening atmosphere is lost. For example opening piece "Clusters 1" is so understated as to be almost three minutes of complete silence - even once the volume has been cranked right up. Possibly on stage something is happening, singers entering the stage, or readying themselves. On CD, it just leaves you wondering if the disc is working properly. Churlish though that may sound, even through a good sound system I found much of the nuances of this music needed headphones to really make sense and even then too often the sounds are too abstract to really make sense. That said the sound quality on the disc is astoundingly clear and bright, without impacting on the subtleness of what has been created and whether you call this world music, avant-garde, performance music, or something completely different, ECM, who are sometimes accused of releasing very similar sounding CDs (they've certainly avoided that here) have done a wonderful job in recreating the music and presenting it in an classy, eye catching manner.

If you have enjoyed the music of Meredith Monk before, I've no doubt that you will absolutely love this CD and I truly mean that, however on a personal level Songs Of Ascension left me firmly on the ground.

Track Listing
1. Clusters 1
2. Strand (Gathering)
3. Winter Variation
4. Cloud Code
5. Shift
6. Mapping
7. Summer Variation
8. Vow
9. Clusters 2
10. Falling
11. Burn
12. Strand (Inner Psalm)
13. Autumn Variations
14. Ledge Dance
15. Traces
16. Respite
17. Mapping Continued
18. Clusters 3
19. Spring Variation
20. Fathom
21. Ascent

Added: August 6th 2011
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Meredith Monk
Hits: 1503
Language: english

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