The volcano traditionally symbolizes danger, the unpredictable power of elemental forces and nature's destructive potential. These meanings are all recognised by Meredith Monk in her new collection of pieces for voice(s) and/or piano, but, as ever, the composer-singer-choreographer-dancer - or "mosaicist", to use Monk's all-purpose term for her multiple activities - is rooting for deeper associations. "Volcanic activity was instrumental in the creation of this planet," she notes. "Volcanic land is some of the most fertile land on earth...So there's a tension between death and destruction on the one hand and rebirth and fertility on the other. These processes imply transformation, which is one of the underlying themes of Volcano Songs."
Comprised entirely of premiere recordings, Monk's seventh album for the New Series can perhaps be most closely related to Facing North and to the composer-singer's pre-ECM disc Songs from the Hill, both of which addressed nature's processes as manifested in specific landscapes. Though not in this instance bound to a particular time and place, the Volcano Songs (1993-4) also have affinities with the earlier compositions in their instrumentation. In contrast to the chamber opera Atlas (1991, recorded 1992), pieces on the present recording are laid bare, very much in line with Meredith's frequently stated goal of "trying to dig down to essential human utterance".