Boomkat Product Review:
NYC’s innovative, avant-garde polymath, Meredith Monk, presents a haunting meditation “on our intimate connection to nature, its inner structures, the fragility of its ecology and our interdependence” in her latest major work for ECM New Series.
Stemming from the early inspiration of an essay by Buddhist practitioner, Gary Snyder, entitled Writers and the War against Nature, whose emphasis on the importance of artists acting as spokespersons for non-human entities really resonated with Meredith’s concerns about how art, her’s in particular, could address issues of ecology and climate change, and coupled with Claude Levi Strauss’ notion of “bricolage” - essentially making do and re-purposing what’s to hand - Meredith looked back to a long-running notebook of observations which she considers as “seeds, filled with potential”, as the roots of this wonderfully elegant yet subtly foreboding cycle of glossolalic, non-verbal hymns and minimalist instrumentals.
Written and composed to make full use of Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble’s rarely paralleled range of extended technique, and accompanied by woodwind, percussion, piano, keyboard, violin and harp, On Behalf of Nature unfurls in 19 parts intended to “conjure multiple realms including the celestial, human, microscopic, animal, planet, mineral, as well as underlying processes and rhythms of nature”. She does so with a wonderfully natural, fluid transfer of energies, in effect seeking to to reverse art and music’s mostly anthropocentric dialogue and give voice to “those forces that often go unrecognised or unappreciated.”
To be fair, it does sound like she’s been hitting the DMT pipe and coming to some pretty natural conclusions that resonate with concepts embedded in a range of relatively recent releases, from Pauline Oliveros’ Primordial/Lift to Fis, E+E or Sub Loam’s modelled thoughts on soil and mineral dynamics, but Meredith’s imaginative focus on the mysterious qualities of the voice really lends On Behalf Of Nature’s thrust a levity and level of transcendence which, by the end of Spider’s Web Anthem, at the album’s close, will manifest itself as a lump in the throat that can’t be ignored.