This week, two proud mavericks of American music—Meredith Monk and John Luther Adams—will edge a little more into the mainstream. Monk, whom I wrote about last fall, is at the St. Louis Symphony, presiding over the première of a yet-to-be-titled work for singers and orchestra. In recent years, Monk, whose work has long defied categorization, has been identifying more strongly with the classical world, although her methods remain unorthodox, as she recounts in an interview with Sarah Bryan Miller of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Monk has had difficulty deciding on a title, and David Robertson will announce her final choice from the stage. And in a concert tonight at the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, Monk will sing several of her shorter pieces on program that also includes Steve Reich’s “Violin Phase,” John Cage’s “Litany for the Whale,” and Ingram Marshall’s “Fog Tropes” (presently resounding through several thousand American movie theaters as part of the soundtrack for Martin Scorsese’s “Shutter Island”).
As for Adams, his wide-open Alaskan soundscapes are about to descend on the urban jungles of New York and Chicago. On Sunday night, the American Contemporary Music Ensemble plays “In a Treeless Place, Only Snow” and “The Farthest Place,” at (Le) Poisson Rouge, alongside works of Kevin Volans; on Monday night, the Chicago Symphony’s MusicNOW series presents “Qilyaun,” “for Jim (rising),” and “…and bells remembered…,” alongside works of Osvaldo Golijov. Adams will receive even higher-profile performances next October, when the American Composers Orchestra essays “The Light Within,” at Carnegie Hall, and the Chicago Symphony unleashes his beautifully forbidding orchestral piece “Dark Waves,” with Jaap van Zweden conducting. You can hear a recording of the world premiere of “Dark Waves” at the tail end of my 2008 Profile of Adams.