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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

In Context: On Behalf of Nature

Meredith Monk's On Behalf of Nature runs at BAM from December 3—7. Context is everything, so get even closer to the show with this curated selection of articles, interviews, and videos related to the production. Once you've seen it, help us keep the conversation going by telling us what you thought below.

Program Notes


"Songs Without Words" (BAM Blog)
Meredith Monk's destiny as a singer might have been set by her maternal great-grandfather, a cantor in Tsarist Russia.

"Meredith Monk: Tune the Body. Feed the Tortoise." (The New York Times)
A day in the life of Monk includes feeding Neutron, the three-toed tortoise and cooking with turmeric and cumin.

"Downtown Shaman" (The New Yorker)
For critic Alex Ross, Monk has "kept alive the dream of a bohemian metropolis, a place in which artists could afford to abandon convention and experiment at will"

"Writers and the War Against Nature" (Shambala Sun)
Poet Gary Snyder's notion of the artist as a "spokesperson for non-human entities" was an inspiration for On Behalf of Nature. 

Watch & Listen

Around-the-clock Monk on NPR.

Now your turn...

So how did you enjoy the show? Likes? Dislikes? Surprises? Tell us what's on your mind in the comments below.


  1. A conscientious and inspiring Ode to Nature. Meredith Monk thou Maverick and Marvel.
    Cinzia Fasino

  2. I really enjoyed it.
    Dunno whether it's because I have now seen a number of MM pieces over the years and her vocabulary isn't as mysterious to me or if this piece was actually more "accessible" .
    My only beef was that the person next to me was recording most of the show via his phone. I figured he was a friend of someone in cast and it'd be quick, but nope. He started and stopped tAping throughout the entire programme. Really distracting, particularly with a piec e as subltle and ephemeral as this.

    Nevertheless, I will come back to see another perf if I am able.

  3. I have had a hard time making up my mind what to say about tonight's performance. Interestingly, eekahil's comment on the BAM blog helps me to formulate my thoughts. I, too, have seen a number of Meredith Monk performances — at BAM and at Danspace Project . I am very familiar with her movement and vocal style, and consider myself a fan. For some reason I am ambivalent about On Behalf of Nature. There were frequent moments when I felt quite moved by what I was hearing and seeing, but there were other times that felt a bit irritating and even repetitive (in the sense that it was nothing new for Meredith.) The concept was spot on for today's day and age, but sometimes it felt kind of simplistic and predictable. And then something would happen to transcend that thought. It was on and off like that for me the whole performance. I will say, I absolutely loved Meredith's concept for the costuming, and I think Yoshio Yabara did a fantastic job recycling and reinventing each performer's own clothing for this show. That alone was worth attending. And honestly, that Meredith Monk is still creating new work and being inspired by such important themes makes it worth it too. Despite the moments this performance left me flat, I am still a fan and will still continue to follow her work. The moments she shone really did speak to me — as well as on behalf of nature, at that.

  4. We enjoyed the performance, but the seats were incorrigible! The balcony seats in Harvey are the worst.

  5. Wow. Totally true to her unique compositional voice, but employing the most ambitious and ranging musical vocabulary I've heard from her. The 75 minutes flew by!

  6. Wonderful, joyous, really humorous in just the right places. I especially liked the people who had become birds.

  7. My wife and I enjoyed the show. The last time I saw Meredith perform was 55 years ago. I was a 13-year-old and Meredith was a stand-out in a high school performance.because she had such obvious talent, even then, and because her name was so easy to remember, I became generally familiar with her artistic contributions over the years. I was happy to have the opportunity to see her perform again. Although I am not at all familiar with avant garde dance or music, I enjoyed the show and really liked the music.

  8. My first time to see MM - and I hope not my last. I didn't read the program notes ahead of time ---I never do---but it was clear that the performance was an invitation to enter into a mystical state of union with all that is and is not, evoking all the categories of being and all the categories of non-being. I strove to let go of my cognitive channel and just absorb the sacredness of the work. Sat with eyes closed on and off and at those times especially could feel waves of energy coursing through my body. Poignant has never felt so powerful. I hope the audience, myself included, changes its attitudes and behaviors toward the earth. If not, we are just voyeurs of decline and death and deserve the grim fate depicted in the more harrowing passages of "On Behalf of Nature."

  9. There are no words. Such an intense collaboration of sound, rhythm and movement spoke its passion directly to my heart. So glad to have been its witness.

  10. I am a fan and former occasional student of MM. My husband and I both loved this performance; especially after seeing "Birds with Sky Mirrors" the previous week (the floating monks were wonderful, but everything else felt like being beat over the head.) So much more subtlety, richness of sound (of course), and striking imagery in Meredith's work - made me smile, weep, and dance in my seat. In spite of the fact that we were in the second balcony on those amazingly hard seats. Yes, I would do it again in a heartbeat!!

  11. Song without words is an interesting one. You may look here and find more!


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