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Freaky Friday: “Book of Days”

Posted by purplemary54 on November 8, 2013

Meredith Monk experiments with vocals the way composers like Philip Glass experiment with music.  She’s a vocal artist.  I don’t mean she just sings; I mean that she creates art using voices.  Although that description doesn’t quite do her justice.  She is a multimedia artist, creating hypnotic, moving experiences using dance and voices.  A lot of her work has been for the theater, although she’s also made a couple of films.

One of those films is Book of Days, and judging from the clips I’ve been able to find on YouTube, it is a feast for the eyes as well as the ears.  I’d heard of Monk before, but I didn’t know much about her until I read Love Goes to Buildings on Fire, which I’ve mentioned several times before.  She was part of that amazing experimental scene in New York during the early 70s that has proven so unbelievably rich.

Her inspiration for the film, and an earlier one called Ellis Island, was an image of a girl on a medieval street in a Jewish community.  What her spun out of her imagination after that is clearly marvelous, ghostly and surreal.  There’s both history and magic at work, memory and prophecy, but the line between them is deliberately blurred.

The film doesn’t seem to be offering any answers; I don’t think it’s even asking any questions.  I haven’t seen the whole thing yet, just a few clips.  But there seems to be something enduring and eternal here.  The images are amazing, but it’s the voices that grab me.  Monk is one of those artists who draws on some sort of collective unconscious to create work that seems almost primal.  It reminds a little of cave paintings, austere and simple and beautiful.

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