Tag Archives: Mellissa Hughes

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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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

New life for Matt Marks’ The Little Death

Composer Matt Marks and soprano Mellissa Hughes are Boy and Girl in the Incubator Arts Project presentation of The Little Death: Vol. 1 on Thursday, July 8. (Photos copyright 2010, Steven P. Marsh)

Something magical happened to Matt Marks‘ post-Christian nihilist pop opera The Little Death: Vol. 1, when it was preparing for its current staging at Incubator Arts Project at St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery. What had been a great collection of smart, sometimes silly, pop songs in the guise of a gently confusing pop opera has evolved into a smartly staged, well focused piece of musical theater.

The stars of the show sell lemonade and cookies before the performance.

While Marks’ excellent music provided the building blocks, director Rafael Gallegos has built a solid foundation and has cemented the building block  together to form an elegant theatrical environment for the Marks’ eerie love story.

A little less wholesome.

Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? was blown away (pun intended) by Thursday night’s premiere performance of the staged version. That’s quite a contrast to my reaction to the semi-staged version presented by Marks’ label, New Amsterdam Records, in March. Although I loved the sample- and hymn-heavy music, the overall feel of the piece left me a bit uneasy. It was hard to discern what Marks was trying to do. Was he making fun of Christianity or exploring the quirks and limitations of the faith context in which he was raised? Songs like “I Like Stuff,” are the types of catchy tunes that every producer wants in a musical — ones that the audience can easily hum on the way out of the theater. The lyrics are no less catchy, but that where things became a bit unsettling — when the singers compare liking hamsters and ice cream and rainbows to liking Jesus.

The piece uses recognizable samples and large chunks of Christian hymnody as the basis for some of its songs that loosely tell the story of a blossoming love affair between Boy (Marks) and Girl (soprano Mellissa Hughes), backed up by a four-member choir. Another thing that left me feeling uneasy in that early viewing was the fact that the story starts with Boy shooting Girl before time-traveling back to the start of their relationship. Marks describes Vol. 1 as “the first half of our story.”

The last temptation of Christ?

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