RIP Matt Marks (1980-2018)

Matt Marks

All of us at Sequenza 21 are saddened to learn of the passing of Matt Marks. A musical polymath, he was a composer, new music advocate, provocative Twitter presence, co-founder and key organizer of New Music Gatheringand a versatile performer, both a vocalist-actor in various projects and a founding member of the ensemble Alarm Will Soundin which he played French horn and for which he did imaginative arrangements.

I met Marks on several occasions, but will allow his close friends and family to share reminiscences of a more personal nature. Among all those who knew and encountered him, either as a social media presence or “IRL,” his intelligence, sense of humor, persistent advocacy for gender equality in concert music and other worthy causes, and formidable talent will be sorely missed. Condolences to the many people whose lives he touched.

Read and Listen Further: Matt Marks

Matt Marks on Twitter.

The Matt Marks Music Page (personal website).

Matt Marks at New Music USA.

A 2017 review in the New York Times of Marks’s opera Mata Hari.

And a scene from the opera:

Mata Hari from PROTOTYPE Festival on Vimeo.

Steve Smith, writing in 2010 in the NY Times, profiled A Little Death, Vol. 1, a performance piece and recording with soprano Mellissa Hughes for New Amsterdam. It served as an introduction to Marks’s music for many.

Arrangement of “Revolution Number 9” for Alarm Will Sound:

Performance with Hotel Elefant:

Vulnicura Live

Björk

Vulnicura Live

One Little Indian CD

 

Björk’s most recent studio album has already received two releases: Vulnicura and the “unplugged version” Vulnicura Strings. Each has their virtues, but Vulnicura Live brings the best aspects of both, darkly hued electronica and sensuous strings respectively, together with singularly emotive performances by the singer. Thus, one could make a case that Live is even more appealing than the studio albums. It outlines her recent breakup and recovery from it with an on the surface display of feelings that many other singers could learn from — if they dared to be as vulnerable as Björk.

 

On the electronics side, Björk receives aid from Arca and Haxan Cloak. The textures that they weave are a pensive counterweight to the sonorous strings, allowing them to be underpinned with an anguished mixture of beats and synthetic textures just as appealing as they are at times distressing. The strings, supplied by members of Alarm Will Sound and New Heritage Orchestra, keen with abandon when called upon as an amplification of the singer’s grief. Correspondingly, they bring warmth to the proceedings’ latter half, in which Björk begins to share songs of resilience and recovery.

 

So, is this the breakup album you’d recommend to a friend on the outs with their ex? That all depends on their own proclivities – are they up for the ride? Björk presents grief and resiliency in equal measure and finds her own way to catharsis by Live’s conclusion. My take? It’s an object lesson that will likely help empower many in the throes of distress. That, in addition to its many musical merits, makes Live one of Björk’s most vital offerings to date.

 

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