Thursday, April 02, 2015

Meredith Monk On Behalf of Nature

Meredith Monk, the 72-year-old actress/singer/dancer/composer/filmmaker with signature pigtails, was in town with her vocal and instrumental ensemble for three performances of her latest work, On Behalf of Nature, at Yerba Buena this weekend.

Her minimalist musical style paired with modern dance movement and multimedia, which she has been refining since the 1960s, has probably been as groundbreaking and influential as the work of Martha Graham and Steve Reich combined.

I never got a program, where the ecological subtext of the 75-minute work was supposedly explained, but that was possibly a blessing. The abstract, non-insistent piece worked fine on its own. Though nothing made any literal sense, the performers carried enough conviction that you could tell they knew what was going on.

Besides the lovely music, sung and played and danced by a group of eight musicians, the principal thrill was seeing San Francisco bass Sidney Chen as a new member of the ensemble.

Sid used to work for Nonesuch Records in New York City, moved to San Francisco to work as Artistic Administrator for the Kronos Quartet, and has sung in choruses ranging from the San Francisco Symphony to Volti. This latest incarnation as a Meredith Monk singer/dancer looks like an immense challenge and he aced it. I am filled with admiration and a tinge of envy because this looks like serious fun.

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