Still Learning to Listen, Facing North
I’m listening to my new CD called Facing North. The names on the cover are Meredith Monk and Robert Een, Meredith Monk being the more famous of the two, but both musicians and dancers. I think it is, technically, an opera, although I’m only hearing the music, not seeing the dance. Monk was doing a residency in Banff, British Columbia when she decided to temporarily abandon the work she’d planned and respond to her immediate surroundings — the land and space and light and plants and animals and rocks and waters, sounds and voices and motion of Western North America, all decidedly different from the New York environment she called home.
I just read in the program notes that Een grew up in Mankato, Minnesota, my own hometown! In Ms Monk’s estimation, Een’s early experience of such a northern place furnished especially rich associations relevant to the performance of this work. I’m thinking about my own happy associations with snow and ice, of course, all from a place of safety — associations with skating and skiing, crisp, cold air and gleaming snow with hardly a shadow of threat.
Anyway, Facing North is nice example of the way my listening project, which stretched out from September 2020 to last month works, when it works (click here for a description). Meredith Monk was on the list of composers in question, and although I had known her name before, I was prompted to actually listen when her name came up — and remember. I heard an interview with her and remembered a gentle, light, smiling, presence, a warm interface over a structure of reinforced steel. Then, a few days ago, we heard a segment called “Keeping Warm,” from Facing North, on the car radio — luck? serendipity? or just one of those things that happens all the time but is only recognizably yours if you have the right receivers in position, charged. As a result of my odd little project, I really do have more receivers now, with a better charge.