Meredith Monk’s new album MEMORY GAME, featuring Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble and the Bang on a Can All-Stars, was released on Cantaloupe Music on March 27, 2020. Monk's piece Double Fiesta (featured on Memory Game) was included on The New York Times' list of their homebound writers' favorite recordings of music that had been scheduled to be played live this spring.
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 from MEMORY GAME 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.
NPR selected "Memory Song" as one of the Top 20 Songs of March 2020, with WNYC's New Sounds also naming the album as a top release that month. NPR reported, "Propelled by tinkling chimes and gentle oscillations, this ode to remembering planet earth ("trees," "coffee," "candlelight"), from Monk's dystopian opera The Games, strikes a surprisingly pleasant tone, closing with a cacophony of caterwauling animals."
Bandcamp raved, "Sixty years after her work began, Monk is still moving into new territory, approaching creation with what in Zen Buddhism is called 'Beginner’s Mind,' and opening herself to the universe of whatever piece she’s working on. . . Openness and vulnerability are cornerstones of Monk’s work and performance, but beyond that, it’s the simplicity of listening that is most important. On MEMORY GAME, armed with trust, a stellar cast, 60-plus years of creation, and a very good ear, she shows us why."
Classical Post calls MEMORY GAME "a game of memory for Monk looking back at her work and as she said, it is “a memory of the future”. The album is a cycle, encompassing the full range of the human experience and the cycles of life.”
The Wire adds, “For [MEMORY GAME] Meredith Monk’s finely honed vocal quartet are joined by The Bang On A Can All-Stars, an instrumental sextet whose lean, emphatic and muscular execution suits the precision of Monk’s writing perfectly...MEMORY GAME is an invitation to discern the magic and the menace, the joy and the precariousness, the transience of the physical, the durability of the intangible. One more vital work from this unique and indispensable artist.”
Teaming up here with members of 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 Do You Be (1987) and impermanence (2008). The actor and singer Michael Cerveris joins as guest artist. 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.
Monk says of the new album, “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.”