Composer Matt Marks: Cause of death revealed

Composer-performer Matt Marks, seen here performing in 2010, died Friday from heart failure, his fiancée, composer Mary Kouyoumdjian, tells The New York Times.

The Times obituary also cited information from Marks’ sister, Los Angeles TV journalist Suzanne Marques, about a genetic condition her brother had.

Marks, who was 38 when he died in St. Louis while working with the New Music ensemble Alarm Will Sound, which he confounded, was diagnosed at age 9 with HHT (hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia), a genetic disorder that causes formation of abnormal blood vessels, Marques tells the Times, expanding on a Facebook post she wrote the day after Marks died.

The disorder helped fuel his intellectual curiosity, Marques said, because it forced him to avoid physical exertion.

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UPDATE: Fund for composer Mary Kouyoumdjian after death of fiancé Matt Marks passes $33,000

Composers Matt Marks and Mary Kouyoumdjian on a trip to Maine posted on her Facebook page.

The Columbia University music faculty has set up a GoFundMe campaign for composer Mary Kouyoumdjian’s possible “emergency costs” in the wake of the death of her fiancé, composer and Alarm Will Sound founding member Matt Marks.

By midday Tuesday, the fund, whose initial goal was $5,000, had attracted more than $33,000 in contributions.

To view the campaign and donate, GO HERE.

On the Slipped Disc New Music blog, commenter trolls (I guess there are trolls in every part of the internet, but this stunned me) have been horribly and unnecessarily brutal in questioning or condemning the fund-raising campaign for Kouyoumdjian.

I don’t know what unexpected expenses she might be facing as a result of her fiancé’s death, but it seems to me that it’s an individual’s prerogative to contribute to any cause he or she chooses.

Although I haven’t seen a wedding date for the couple mentioned, recent social media posts indicate the couple must have set one. There were mentions of picking out a dress and tasting wedding cakes, things that generally aren’t done prospectively,

Marks’ death Friday morning remains officially unexplained, though his sister, Suzanne Marques, in a lovingly gut-wrenching Facebook tribute to her “baby brother,” discusses a serious health issue he faced. Her exposition appears to provide at least a clue to what might have happened.

It cast something of a pall on this weekend’s Bang on a Can Marathon — a 10-plus hour concert of New Music, the world that nurtures the music of Marks and Kouyoumdjian — at New York University’s Skirball Performing Arts Center, It was addressed in a beautiful statement read by Bang on a Can All-Stars member Ken Thomson.

Bang on a Can Marathon: Today’s the day

Bang on a Can Marathon 2018

Artists scheduled to perform at the Bang on a Can Marathon 2018

What day could be more appropriate than Mothers’ Day for the mother of  all Bang on a Can Marathons.

The free 10-hour multi-genre show kicks off at noon at New York University’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts.

Featured artists and composers include Bang on a Can founders David Lang, Michael Gordon, and Julia Wolfe, along with one of their mentors, Terry Riley — and, of course, the Bang on a Can All Stars.

But performances aren’t limited to contemporary classical. Singer-songwriter and Magnetic Fields‘ frontman Stephin Merritt is appearing in the first hour of the show, with cellist bandmate Sam Davol, to appeal to the pop audience. Another artist with proven crossover appeal, Brooklyn singer-songwriter Xenia Rubinos, appears later in the day.

If you can’t make it to Skirball, a livestream is scheduled. GO HERE to connect (free registration required to watch).

Check out the full performance schedule after the jump

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New York composer Matt Marks dies at 38

Composer Matt Marks died Friday, May 11, 2018.

Composer Matt Marks died Friday, May 11, 2018.

Talented young composer Matt Marks  — really a quadruple threat, given his beautiful singing ability, high-level horn playing (he was a founding member of leading contemporary music ensemble Alarm Will Sound), and arranging — died Friday, May 11.

He was 38.

He died in St. Louis, Missouri, where Alarm Will Sound had performed on May 9 and had been doing some recording, the band’s marketing director, Michael Clayville, tells NPR’s Deceptive Cadence blog.

Related: Fundraiser for Matt Marks’ fiancée

Learning of the sweet, funny, and sometimes acid-tongued Marks’ death under any circumstances would have been gutting. But my first clue came when composer Ted Hearne’s heartfelt tribute turned up in my Facebook feed Saturday night. I was in New Music setting that was such a familiar part of Marks’ life: at the Alexander Kasser Theater in Montclair, New Jersey, for a Peak Performances presentation of Julia Wolfe and Maya Beiser’s “Spinning,”with composer David Lang and artist Suzanne Bocanegra among the members of the audience.

The context — Peak Performances has a track record of incubating powerful new works, including David T. Little’s “Dog Days,” which springs from a well that also nourished Marks’ work — made the news of his death that much more of a gut punch.

Marks’ passing was announced on Facebook by his fiancee, Mary Kouyoumdjian.

No cause of death was given.

Alarm Will Sound posted an announcement hours after Kouyoumdjian, which precisely repeated her parting admonition: “We appreciate your sensitivity during this difficult time.”

The always funny Marks — he frequently offered random, wry, witty commentary on Twitter, lately as “Matt Marks (aka JonBenét Gramsci)” and for many years, simply under the childlike moniker “Mafoo” —  died the morning after he tweeted news that the National Endowment for the Arts had approved a $10,000 grant for the staging of his splendid opera, “Mata Hari” (seen last year at New York’s Prototype Festival) at the West Edge Opera in Berkeley, California, in August.

WATCH: An excerpt from composer Matt Marks’ opera “Mata Hari”:

I saw and was impressed by “Mata Hari” at Prototype —  where the composer, as always made a point to offer a cheerful hello —  Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? last posted about him in 2010, after a performance of his earlier work, “The Little Death: Vol. 1,” which he also performed with soprano Mellissa Hughes.

So, I couldn’t say I knew him well, and don’t wish to take anything away from his close friends and family. I simply knew him through his often brilliant and usually funny work, and his public persona of a down-to-earth person who was consistently pleasant and friendly.

Composers Ted Hearne, far left, and Caroline Shaw, far right, were in the chorus for a performance of Matt Marks'

Composers Ted Hearne, far left, and Caroline Shaw, far right, were in the chorus for a performance of Matt Marks’ “The Little Death: Vol. 1” at Galapagos in Brooklyn’s Dumbo neighborhood in 2010, with Marks and Mellissa Hughes in the lead roles. (© 2010, Steven P. Marsh/willyoumissme.com)

Marks had only begun to reveal the full extent of his ability. He’s a composer who always held a special place in my heart because I got to see him and his work early on and watch him grow and blossom.

R.I.P. Matt Marks.

WATCH: The Beatles’ “Revolution No. 9,” arranged by Matt Marks:

The wait’s almost over: First new album from the Schramms in 15 years is finished, awaiting release

Dave Schramm backs up Chris Stamey at Little City Books in Hoboken, New Jersey, on April 20, 2018. (Photo copyright 2018, Steven P. Marsh/willyoumissme.com)The Schramms have finished their first new album in 15 years, the band’s founder and guitarist Dave Schramm tells us, and is slated for release sometime later this year.

It’s the Schramms’ first album since 2003’s live “official bootleg” collection, “2000 Weiss Beers From Home.”

Schramm, a Hoboken, New Jersey, -based guitar wizard who has played with Human Switchboard and Yo La Tengo, and is closely associated with the indie music scene centered on Maxwell’s, revealed the news the other day at Little City Books, co-owned by Kate Jacobs, another Hoboken music icon.

“It’s recorded,” he says, adding that it is slated for release sometime this year on Hoboken’s Bar/None Records, which has been busy this year with a sparkling new release “Everybody’s Insecure” from Elk City and a beautiful rerelease of “Shore Leave,” the debut album by Feelies percussionist Dave Weckerman’s Yung Wu.

Schramm said he has been hoping for a spring release, but indicated that didn’t seem likely now.

Nothing’s listed on the Bar/None website so far.

A post on the band’s website dated Dec. 2, 2009, which appears to be the latest update, said a new album was “nearing completion.” It looks like Schramm was a little optimistic about the timetable back then.

The band’s Facebook page, which appears not to have been updated since 2015, lists a lineup of Schramm on guitar and vocals, Andrew Harris Burton on keys and vocals, Jon Graboff on guitar and vocals, Al Greller on Bass, and Ron Metz on drums.

‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ actor J.B. Smoove explains his improvised journey to comedy success ahead of Peekskill gig

Comedian and actor J.B. Smoove was known as Jerry Brooks while growing up in Mount Vernon, New York.Actor J.B. Smoove grew up funny. He’s the first to tell you that his whole family — particularly mom Elizabeth Whitehead — is “hilarious.” So he had a head start on the road to a career as a comedian.

But it took more than luck to hit a peak in his career at age 42, when the Mount Vernon, New York, -raised Smoove was tapped to play Leon, the permanent houseguest, on Larry David’s cringeworthy HBO comedy series “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

He talks about his relentless climb up the ladder and reveals the key to his success in my conversation with him for The Journal News/lohud.com in advance of his appearance at the Paramount Hudson Valley Theater in Peekskill, New York, this Friday evening, April 6.

His standup act it unpredictable and changes on a dime to suit his mood and the vibe of the evening’s audiences.

“I would say this: If you love Leon, you’re gonna love J.B. Smoove,” he says.

Read the interview and get all the details for seeing him live in Peekskill on lohud.com by GOING HERE.

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In confronting fear of her past, Elk City’s Renée LoBue has written some of her most personal and revealing songs ever [Video]

Elk City performs at Rent Party in Maplewood, New Jersey, on Feb. 23, 2018. (Photo © 2018, Steven P. Marsh/willyoumissme.com)

Elk City performs at Rent Party in Maplewood, New Jersey, on Feb. 23, 2018. (Photo © 2018, Steven P. Marsh/willyoumissme.com)

When Elk City’s Renée LoBue and I started talking back in November 2016 about the songs she had written for the band’s first new album since 2010’s “House of Tongues,” I never imagined the conversation would continue for more than a year before that album materialized.

But it did take that long. And the new collection, “Everybody’s Insecure,” released March 16 on Hoboken’s Bar/None Records, was well worth the wait.

Post continues below video


Renée LoBue of Elk City performs at Rent Party in Maplewood, New Jersey, on Feb. 23, 2018. (Photo © 2018, Steven P. Marsh/willyoumissme.com)

Renée LoBue of Elk City performs at Rent Party in Maplewood, New Jersey, on Feb. 23, 2018. (Photo © 2018, Steven P. Marsh/willyoumissme.com)

With LoBue’s cooperation and permission, and the help of her longtime collaborator Ray Ketchem, I was able to distill our dialogue over those many months into an article that reveals the difficult personal journey she took to confront and address her past in song.

Read the full interview by CLICKING HERE, on northjersey.com.