Meredith Monk & Bang on a Can All-Stars

Meredith Monk
& Bang on a Can All-Stars

Memory Game

Sat   Mar   26   2022 - 3:30 PM Tennessee Theatre

There’s the voice in the sense of an instrument and the voice in the sense of a personal perspective. But in the case of Meredith Monk, who has remade both senses in her long career, the difference melts away.

Monk is a composer, singer, director / choreographer, filmmaker and installation artist whose limitless vocal innovation has served to amplify a vast and holistic vision of nature, humanity, memory, and time. She has spent part of the last decade decade pulling the past through the keyhole of the present, conjuring fresh new music and theater from her deep archive. In 2010, she restaged her classic 1972 solo from Education of the Girlchild, in which she portrays a woman aging in reverse, as if meeting herself on the other side of time’s long looking glass. In 2013, Monk brought On Behalf of Nature, an evening-length work built around fragments from old notebooks, which ECM released as an album in 2016.

Last year, Cantaloupe Music issued MEMORY GAME, which features unrecorded selections from Monk’s sci-fi opera, The Games, and reworked pieces from classic albums such as Do You Be and impermanence. The new arrangements by longtime collaborators Bang on a Can All-Stars—including some by the peerless composer-performer collective’s founding triumvirate, Michael Gordon alongside Pulitzer-winners Julia Wolfe and David Lang—were hailed by The Guardian for their “compelling authority.” Side by side is Monk with her celebrated Vocal Ensemble, including Theo Bleckmann, Katie Geissinger, and Allison Sniffin.

Both returning to Big Ears, Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble and Bang on a Can All-Stars give the live premiere of MEMORY GAME, at once a retrospective, a prescient outlook and a new take on an American master’s work.


Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble
Bang on a Can All-Stars


Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble
Theo Bleckmann, voice
Katie Geissinger, voice
Meredith Monk, voice
Allison Sniffin, voice & bowed psaltery

Bang on a Can All-Stars
Robert Black, bass
Vicky Chow, piano & keyboard
David Cossin, percussion
Arlen Hlusko, cello
Mark Stewart, electric guitar
Ken Thomson, clarinet, bass clarinet & alto saxophone
Andrew Cotton, sound engineer


Spaceship, from The Games: a science fiction opera (1984) (arr. Michael Gordon)
Memory Song, from The Games: a science fiction opera (1984) (arr. Julia Wolfe)
Gamemaster’s Song, from The Games: a science fiction opera (1984) (arr. Meredith Monk)
Migration, from The Games: a science fiction opera (1984) (arr. Meredith Monk)
Downfall, from The Games: a science fiction opera (1984) (arr. Ken Thomson)
Waltz in 5s, from The Politics of Quiet (1996) (arr. Meredith Monk and Allison Sniffin)
Tokyo Cha Cha, from Turtle Dreams (Cabaret (1983) (arr. Allison Sniffin)
Totentanz, from impermanence (2006) (arr. David Lang)
Double Fiesta, from Acts from Under and Above (1986) (arr. David Lang) 

All compositions by Meredith Monk © Meredith Monk Music (ASCAP)
Program is subject to change.

MEMORY GAME is both a look back at a pivotal point in Meredith Monk’s storied career, and a richly layered portrait of how vocal music, under the guidance of an indefatigable master, can play with our expectations in poignant and compelling ways. What emerges is a suite of songs that flows with a remarkable narrative cohesion, stemming in large part from the composer’s willingness to revisit the past with an insatiably curious eye.

“The first time that I ever worked with Bang on a Can, it was in the late ‘90s,” Monk tells DownBeat magazine in a recent interview. “That was really, in a way, the beginning of this project. It’s exciting to hear these songs again in a new way, with more of an instrumental aspect added onto the vocal.”

Teaming up here with her renowned Vocal Ensemble (featuring Theo Bleckmann, Katie Geissinger and Allison Sniffin) and the Bang on a Can All-Stars, Monk explores all-new arrangements of never-before-recorded selections from her award-winning sci-fi opera The Games, as well as new versions of several pieces originally released on ECM Records from Do You Be (1987) and impermanence (2008). The album includes arrangements by Monk, Michael Gordon, David Lang, Julia Wolfe, Bang on a Can All-Stars member Ken Thomson, and Vocal Ensemble member Allison Sniffin.

For composer Michael Gordon, whose arrangement of “Spaceship” opens the album, his own memories of Monk’s music go back to his earliest days in New York City. “I saw Meredith perform when I came to New York in the 1970s,” he says. “Her first appearance on the Bang on a Can Marathon was in 1989, and we’ve had a close association ever since. In 1999, we arranged some of her music for her to sing with the Bang on a Can All-Stars. It was magic, and sparks flew! MEMORY GAME is a collection of pieces we’ve performed together in New York and on tour, with some new arrangements that we’ve yet to play live.”

As Monk writes in her liner notes for the recording: “Right from the beginning of conceiving MEMORY GAME, the prospect of uniting the magnificent singers and players from Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble and Bang on a Can All-Stars filled me with excitement. My hope is that our rich and joyous experience of making music together inspires and resonates with the listener.”

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