William B. Harris Papers – Meredith Monk

Authored by Magdaline J. Lawhorn

Photograph of the 33 ½ rpm vinyl record by Don Preston and Meredith Monk of Candy Bullets and Moon in 1967 in the original sleeve from the William Harris Papers.

Photograph of the 33 ½ rpm vinyl record by Don Preston and Meredith Monk of Candy Bullets and Moon in 1967 in the original sleeve from the William Harris Papers.

Photograph of the 33 ½ rpm vinyl record by Don Preston and Meredith Monk of Candy Bullets and Moon in 1967 out of the sleeve from the William Harris Papers.

Photograph of the 33 ½ rpm vinyl record by Don Preston and Meredith Monk of Candy Bullets and Moon in 1967 out of the sleeve from the William Harris Papers.

Marymount Manhattan College now houses the collection of the late William B. Harris, a New York theater critic (Brown, 2001, 3p.). After his death his collections were donated, including newspaper clippings, playbills, ticket stubs, photographs, personal correspondence and other assorted items he had gathered over the years. Amongst this extensive collection Harris saved a vinyl record. The record was a single press of Candy Bullets and Moon by Meredith Monk and Don Preston (Monk & Preston, 1967). As one of the earliest recordings of Monk it captures more than just her beginnings. It symbolizes her longevity as a leading woman in the entertainment industry.

Born in Lima, Peru on November 20, 1942 Monk is credited with the creation of two techniques called “extended vocal technique” and “interdisciplinary performance” (Monk, n.d.). Her style focused on the practice of modal harmonies and wordless vocal writing (Pentreath, 2015). Through perseverance she became a renowned female vocalist, director, composer, and chorographer. However, Monk is more than a quadruple threat. She represents female ingenuity.

Against the lack of leading female representation in her fields she etched a new path. Realizing a need for an interdisciplinary performance studio, she founded the House in 1968 (Cohen, 2009). And in 1978 she founded Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble (Cohen, 2009). In combination these two entities enabled her professional growth. She created a space and pedagogy that suited her. Thus she flourished in fields that were heavily male dominated in the most prestigious positions. Works such as Ascension Variations (2009), Ellis Island (1981) and Book of Days (1988) (Cohen, 2009) helped push Monk through the glass ceiling.

Drenched in the praises of her colleagues Monk has received numerous awards, the MacArthur “Genius” grant, two Guggenheim Fellowships, three “Obies”, and two “Bessie”, and a 2008 Grammy-nomination (Monk, n.d.). Many have “[r]ecognized [her] as one of the most unique and influential artists of her generation” (Monk, n.d.). Presently she is the 2014-2015 Richard and Barbara Debs Composer’s Chair at Carnegie Hall (Carnegie Hall, n.d.). Her hard earned success sculpted her into a role-model for future artists.

Using workshop’s Monk serves the greater community. She has worked with the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) to provide their community with workshops demonstrating her techniques (YBCA, n.d.). These workshops provided these community members with classes that they otherwise would not have access to. Her community outreach has also spread into the public school system. In 2009 her ensemble engaged in an art education partnership with LaGuardia Arts High School to introduce high school students to divergent performance methods (Monk, n.d.).

Monk is only limited by her experimental imagination. Monk states “Every piece is a journey into the unknown…I think that’s really important in our world, because everybody wants to know what something is going to be before it’s done.” (Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2006). Her philosophy contrasts with real-world expectations. Through her art she resists these expectations, and raises the bar of creativity.

References

Brown, Mary E., “The William B. Harris Papers,” Marymount Manhattan College: Marymount Manhattan College. Collection #001, 2001. http://www.mmm.edu/live/files/98-harrisguidepdf.

Carnegie Hall Corporation, “Meet the Artist: Meredith Monk,” Blog, Carnegie Hall, 2015. http://www.carnegiehall.org/Calendar/2015/3/12/0700/PM/Meet-the-Artist-Meredith-Monk/.

Cohen, S. J., “Meredith Monk,” Blog, Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia, March 1, 2009. http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/monk-meredith.

Immediate Media Company Ltd., “Six of the Best: Contemporary Femail Composers,” Classical-Music.com: The Official Website of BBC Music Magazine, March 4, 2015. http://www.classical-music.com/article/six-best-contemporary-female-composers.

Monk, M., “http://www.meredithmonk.org/about/bio.html,” Blog, Meredith Monk. http://www.meredithmonk.org/about/bio.html.

Monk, M., and D. Preston, “Candy Bullets and Moon. On Aunt Jamina and the United Pancakes,” Marymount Manhattan College: Marymount Manhattan College. Harris Papers, Collection 1, Box 82, Folder 2779, 1967.

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, “50 Cent Tabernacle: Liberation of Sound / Meredith Monk Edition,” Blog, YBCA Precents 50 Cent Tabernacle: Liberation of Sound / Meredith Monk Edition, 2014. http://www.ybca.org/50-cent-tabernacle-meredith-monk.

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