Scherzo

Marches Madness: A Dancer's Joy

It's Marches Madness! Throughout this month, we're posting some of our favorite marches — from the concert hall, opera stage and parade ground. Got one we should hear? Played any yourself? Let us know in the comments section.

There's an unfortunate tendency among art music composers and musicians to regard the human form (including their own) as little more than a handy vehicle for brains.

Meredith Monk is having none of that; she's an artist completely at home in the body.

Now 70 years old, Monk is a choreographer, director and filmmaker as well as composer and singer, and a pioneer in stretching the palette of the human voice — an understanding that comes from a deep knowledge of movement, of tension and release. Monk's vocabulary has influenced generations of musicians not just in classical music, but in a circle that extends to singers like Kate Bush and Björk.

Monk's "Urban March (Light)," recorded for ECM, is part of mercy, a multimedia stage work that Monk made as a collaboration with installation artist Ann Hamilton. Taken on its own, it's a six-minute pure distillation of joy in a swirl of color, light and motion with burbling clarinet, piano and percussion stitching together a foundation for buoyant voices. Her march is one that you feel reverberating from head to toe.

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