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Meredith Monk – Songs of Ascension


She uses her voice as an instrument and sees the human voice as the first instrument for the deepest level of connections and feelings that people have no words to explain. That is what she hopes to convey through her music.

In the piece "Songs of Ascension," she is accompanied at first by violins and, I believe, accordions. When they all use their voices as instruments, the singing sounds like an opera at times and like a choir at others. Because of the instruments used, all four pieces are very close to classical music.

She uses the piano to accompany her singing in Gotham Lullaby. She begins with very pleasant quiet tones and actually introduces the piece with the three-line "When a song...". That's what I heard before it changed to the tones she produced with her voice. Throughout the piece, the piano plays the same melody. As a result, she primarily uses her voice to express her emotions and mood. The piece begins harmonically and becomes restless in the middle section. She concludes the piece with the piano as her sole accompaniment.

The way she makes music or uses her voice instead of instruments may be stamped as simple for many reasons, with the various "lalala" sounds and other other similar sounds. However, she goes far beyond that and lets the listener partially immerse into her music and into another world of music making. Which is why, according to her own statement in the documentary, she is not understood by many, because not all listeners perceive her way of making music as music. She uses exactly this instrument - the human voice - with which music making actually began before there was any kind of instrument.


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