Monday, 22 January 2018

Meredith Monk - Book Of Days (1990)

It was in 1984 that Meredith Monk first conceived of the imagery that would lead to the film Book Of Days - a monochrome scene of a young girl in a medieval Jewish village.  The nonlinear narrative would end up focusing on the girl's strange visions of 20th century life, that she would attempt to explain to her grandfather (see image above), before finding a kindred spirit in a 'madwoman' portrayed by Monk.  Certainly sounds fascinating - anyone out there ever had a chance to watch it?

The soundtrack would feature mostly brief vocal pieces that Monk had been concurrently working on, most of them acapella, occasionally with subtle drone instrumentation from a keyboard, organ, dulcimer, hurdy gurdy or cello.  On completion of the film project, Monk decided to re-record the music from the film, plus some pieces that she hadn't been able to include, and restructure the running order.  The result was this, her fourth album for ECM; intended by Monk and Manfred Eicher to be 'a film for the ears'.

Book Of Days the album remains an oft-cited high point in Meredith Monk's discography, and for good reason.  The preponderance of short acapella pieces really lets her vocal, compositional and vocal arrangement talents shine, and their structure here flows beautifully as an album completely apart from its soundtrack origins.  This is vocal music that sounds truly timeless, notwithstanding the occasional use of a digital keyboard (which actually fits just fine on Churchyard Entertainment and Madwoman's Vision in a Badalamenti-sinister kind of way).  The occasional acoustic instrumentation mentioned earlier perfectly fleshes out the austere vocals too.  A highly recommended jewel of a record.


Previously posted at SGTG: Dolmen Music | Turtle Dreams 


  1. The film was broadcast on PBS in the United States during the late 1980s or early 1990s. At the time, I recall symbolic allusions to the AIDS epidemic providing a strong undercurrent to the surface narrative. Have been looking for an opportunity to see it again ever since.


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