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On Being with Krista Tippett is a public radio project delving into the human side of news stories + issues. Curated + edited by senior editor Trent Gilliss.

We publish guest contributions. We edit long; we scrapbook. We do big ideas + deep meaning. We answer questions.

We've even won a couple of Webbys + a Peabody Award.

Ascending Staircases of Sonoma Light

by Susan Leem, associate producer

"I think about that ‘empty’ space a lot. That emptiness is what allows for something to actually evolve in a natural way."
Meredith Monk, from Mountain Record

In the video above, the singer and composer Meredith Monk fills up a magical performance space that reaches 78 feet up from the ground to a ceiling that opens to the blue sky. The musicians, dancers, and singers all harmonize on different stories of the tower, almost calling to each other from level to level.

Designed by artist Ann Hamilton, the concrete tower is 24 feet in diameter with a pool of water at the base. The interior reflects some of the natural light that fills the double helix staircase and passes through rhythmically-placed metal handrails. Unlike a more traditional performance space where an audience might sit full-on facing a filled stage, there are pockets and openings in the tower to allow performers or even the audience to inhabit the walls. Light, song, and beauty naturally evolve into that empty space.

I remember once I had a long period when I thought; ‘I’ll never have another idea again! I’ve explored everything.’ You’ve got this backpack of your history that you’re carrying around — how do you throw that off and really start from beginner’s mind? That gets trickier and trickier as you go along, to not fall into your habitual patterns in the way that you create, in the work itself, or anything.

Meredith Monk in NYCMeredith Monk, in an interview with Mountain Record magazine.

The singer, composer, director, choreographer, filmmaker has been creating multidisciplinary works since the 1960s. Her latest CD is called Songs of Ascension.

(photo: Steven Henry/Getty Images)