Tag Archives: David T. Little

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:

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David T. Little’s ‘Dog Days’ will blow you away

John Kelly as Prince and Lauren Worsham as Lisa in the world premiere performance of "Dog Days." (Photo: James Matthew Daniel)

John Kelly as Prince and Lauren Worsham as Lisa in the world premiere performance of “Dog Days.” (Photo: James Matthew Daniel)

Be prepared to hold onto your seat if — as you really should — go to see “Dog Days,” the new opera from composer David T. Little and librettist Royce Vavrek now in its world premiere run at the Alexander Kasser Theater in Montclair, N.J.

Composer David T. Little (Photo by Merri Cyr)

Composer David T. Little (Photo: Merri Cyr)

While the extremely dark, comedic piece is clearly a team effort (Jim Findlay‘s scenery, live video and video design lend the piece extra oomph), it’s Little’s powerfully dramatic music that makes the tale so compelling. The emotional score, with spiky, jarring moments, never loses its lyrical bearings. “Dog Days” signals Little as one of the great compositional voices of his generation.

(Click here for a video preview.)

Focusing on one American family that has, so far, survived a vaguely described apocalypse, the opera grapples with questions of human relationships, their limits and even what it means to be human.

The opera is based on a short story of the same title by Judy Budnitz. While the opera makes the story arc understandable, I regret not reading the story before seeing the sold-out first performance at the Kasser, a jewel of a theater on the campus of Montclair State University.

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New Music Bake Sale: Music, Conversation, Beer and, yes, actual baked goods!

Arturo en el Barco's Bake Sale table featured cupcakes and particularly tasty flan de queso. (Photos copyright 2010, Steven P. Marsh)

The 2nd Annual New Music Bake Sale took over the decrepitly beautiful Irondale Center’s space in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, on Saturday, Sept. 25 for more than six hours.

The concept was pretty simple: Bring together a bunch of people who make new music — performers, producers, record companies and the like — in a place where they can make music, talk about music, drink beer and sell sweet and savory baked goods to raise money for their efforts.

Kathleen Supové at her Bake Sale table.

We don’t know how successful the financial part of the evening was, but the place was constantly full of people and activity throughout the event. We sampled the food, beer and music and found it excellent — especially the Sixpoint Sweet Action!

Many of our favorite New Music folks were there throughout the evening, including, but hardly limited to, Todd Reynolds, Matt Marks, Mellissa Hughes, Courtney Orlando, Ken Thomson, Jessica Schmitz, Ted Hearne, David T. Little, Steven Swartz, Glenn Cornett, Franz Nicolay, Caleb Burhans, Kathleen Supové and Oscar Bettison.

Todd Reynolds and Ken Thomson perform Ken's "Storm Drain."

We can hardly wait for next year’s event.

But enough words. Let’s get to the images. Click through to the jump for more photos. Continue reading

Missy Mazzoli’s making an uproar

Composer and performer Missy Mazzoli. (Photo by Stephen Taylor)

Composer Missy Mazzoli‘s having a great year — and it’s only February. She’s been working hard to get her music heard, and it’s really coming together.

Tomorrow night and Sunday, her chamber opera Song from the Uproar is being performed by students from the Bard College Conservatory of Music Graduate Vocal Arts Program, run by the estimable soprano Dawn Upshaw. It’s part of an opera triple bill, which also includes Vinkensport, or The Finch Opera, a world premiere by David T. Little, and L’Enfant et les sortilèges by Maurice Ravel  in the amazing Sosnoff Theater on the Bard College campus in Annandale-on-Hudson. For more info about those shows and to buy tickets, priced from $20-$75, click here. If you’re willing to take a randomly assigned seat, you can pay just $10 by clicking here and using the password “triplebill.”

The lyrical piece examines the life of 19th Century Swiss explorer Isabelle Eberhardt, with text inspired by and responding to her journals, which Missy set to music for soprano and small ensemble, against a backdrop of film by Stephen Taylor. A 40-minute version of the piece presented last May at Galapagos Art Space in Brooklyn was enchanting and provocative entertainment.

Missy’s opera will be heard again in New York City in the spring, when it’s presented as part of New York City Opera’s Vox showcase of new operas. Although Vox hasn’t formally announced its season yet, Time Out New York‘s Olivia Giovetti reveals in an interview with Missy that it’ll be held April 30 and May 1 this year. Although the venue has not been announced, Vox has been presented for the past four years at Skirball Center for the Performing Arts at New York University.

Missy Mazzoli and her quintet Victoire.

Then, in her rock-club guise as leader of the quintet Victoire, Missy will be performing in March and April with American Composers Orchestra.

The first show is at 4 pm Sunday, March 21, at Dweck Center at the Brooklyn Public Library, Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn.  Admission is free. Call (718) 230-2100 or click on www.brooklynpubliclibrary.org for more information.

The second show (on a bill also featuring Arp & Anthony Moore) is presented as part of the Wordless Music Series at 7:30 pm on Wednesday, April 7 at (Le) Poisson Rouge, 158 Bleecker Street, Manhattan.  Tickets are  $15. Call (212) 505-FISH or click here.

Wood and wire: Nadia Sirota and Line C3 play Galapagos

Nadia Sirota performs OMFG with the composer, Our Lady J, on the piano at Galapagos last night. .

Nadia Sirota performs OMFG with the composer, Our Lady J, on the piano at Galapagos last night. .

New Amsterdam Records has a reputation for taking risks with  lesser-known cutting-edge musicians and giving them a chance to really shine. The label last night launched a new monthly series call Archipelago at Galapagos Art Space in the Dumbo section of Brooklyn. New Amsterdam tested the waters, so to speak, in the spring with a short series dubbed Undiscovered Islands. The new series ‘ name continues the water-land theme (appropriate at a venue where some of the seats appear to float in a pool of water).

There’s plenty of self-interest involved, as virtually all of the Archipelago performers are New Amsterdam artists. But because the label has such an interesting mix of talented performers, there’s little chance of a dud.

The series kicked off last night with a set by one of the label’s most inventive and skilled artists, violist Nadia Sirota, and the percussion quartet Line C3. The six-year-old quartet (Haruka Fujii, John Ostrowski, Eric Poland, and Chris Thompson) doesn’t appear to be on New Amsterdam’s roster — though I wouldn’t be surprised if that were in the works — and I was not familiar with them before last night.

The performers mixed it up, playing together and separately throughout the all-too-short program. Nadia kicked off the evening with the premiere of Future Shock by New Amsterdam co-director William Brittelle, a percolating blend of Nadia’s viola and electronics. Line C3 took the stage to perform a 2004 piece written for the quartet by Nico Muhly, Ta and Clap.

Line C3 performs Speak Softly by David T. Little.

Line C3 performs Speak Softly by David T. Little.

Go to the jump to see Line C3’s video of Ta and Clap and read more about last night’s show. Continue reading