Monday, November 06, 2006

The Season

So part of my autumn resolution was to make a point of experiencing more of the Really Good Stuff, the stuff that I moved to NYC to be a part of, which does NOT include community art exhibitions of amateurish kitsch, third-tier gallery openings, non-profit schmooze-a-thons, and 'curator talks' about the Obvious and the Inaccessible. Dropping all of these things really freed up my schedule. Enough so that last Saturday evening, I got to see Meredith Monk at BAM.

I ended up going by myself, even though I've been socializing a lot more with real live humans these days, because Meredith Monk occupies that esoteric space between the avante-garde and the canonized, which, in practice, meant that my friends who might have been interested could not afford it, and those who could afford it would not have been interested.

It was at the Harvey Theatre at BAM, which was appropriate, and which I discovered at the very last second, after finishing an outcall at 7 PM, racing downtown, parking in the miraculous free parking space right outside the main theatre, which I had psychically reserved for myself, and pounding up the steps at 7:23, to see a sign on the closed 'Will Call' window: "'Impermanence' is one block away."


I'm frankly somewhat suprised that there aren't more photos of the BAM Harvey Theatre on the web, because it is so neat. It comes by its post-apocalyptic aesthetic honestly; it was a genuine movie theatre which was genuinely abandoned for twenty years, and when they converted it, they left it the walls as they were, crumbling plaster, rust, water-stains, and all. "Artists attracted to the esthetics of fading grandeur," like me, just love it.

So anyway. About Meredith. I'll spare myself the literal description, and just quote the review:
Impermanence uses music, video, movement, and text to create a celebratory and moving meditation on life. Each section of the work, announced cabaret-style by a spoken title (Last Song; Liminal; Seeds; Particular Dance; Disequilibrium Song, Mieke’s Melody #5), provides a non-narrative look at the different facets of impermanence and the joy and wonder of being. Accompanied by voice, piano, clarinet, breath, bicycle tire and other inventive instrumentation, the many scenes -- a montage of video portraits of extreme close-ups of diverse faces; a playful dance of energy unbound; voices rising from the dark singing a song of beginning and opening; an elegant dance of small gestures, performers balancing on chairs, seemingly floating in space -- create a collage of emotion, image, and sound that gently transport us on a journey that is haunting and mysterious, but at its core, essentially human.
During the first half of the performance, I was on the fence. It was subtle. I couldn't decide if I was bored or not. Some of the sound was sublime, some was silly. The imagery was evocative, if you were in that frame of mind, or tedious, if you weren't. The dance wasn't meaningless and self-indulgent, but since none of the members of the ensemble were exactly spring chickens, it didn't blow you out of your seat. In fact, I could have done most of it, over thirty-five and partially crippled as I am.

Which is not necessarily a bad thing. At least I didn't go home in a state of profound depression, trapped in my earthbound corpus, like I do after catching Mark Morris or the NYCB.

But during the intermission, as I scanned the immensely long list of prestigious awards that Meredith Monk has won, and the expensive German-published CDs for sale, I felt just the teensiest bit nonplussed.

I didn't leave, though, like the people sitting next to me did. And I'm glad.

Because it got better. The last piece was the best of all; it hit that sweet spot, the spot where I go off into a trance, and my astral body starts rotating, and seeing stained glass, and choreographing things in real time. And the interesting thing was, when the first member of the ensemble crept out, lay down on the floor, and started rolling, I was rolling right there with him. It was right. It made sense. There was some comprehensive wave which instructed, 'roll here, this way, now' and we all did.

This is the kind of thing that kinesthetic people understand, and other people don't.

So after the show I did go downstairs and pick up a CD, still buzzing on that last piece. They didn't have any recordings of it, but the one I got sounded just like it; I glean from this that if you've heard one Meredith Monk CD, you may not have heard them all, but you can recognize all the rest of it. She's like Philip Glass in that respect.

Anyway, I no longer begrudge her that MacArthur Fellowship.

1 comment:

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