Making Peace With the Music Left by an Omnivorous Young Composer

In May, the musician Matt Marks died abruptly, of coronary heart failure, after a efficiency with the ensemble Alarm Will Sound.

It was a blow to the tight-knit world of latest music, through which the 38-year-old Mr. Marks was a outstanding presence as a composer, vocalist and French horn participant. Along together with his prolific compositional output, he helped discovered Alarm Will Sound, in addition to the New Music Gathering convention, and was a provocatively humorous mainstay on social media.

[Read the New York Times obituary for Mr. Marks.]

This group rallied to memorialize him. Alarm Will Sound began the Matt Marks Impact Fund to develop new works. Several of his shut buddies accomplished his rating for a theatrical piece, “Words on the Street,” which had its debut in October. And on Tuesday at Roulette in Brooklyn, the Prototype: Opera/Theater/Now competition — which introduced Mr. Marks’s opera “Mata Hari” in 2017 and runs from Jan. 5 by means of 13 this yr — will revive his breakthrough 2010 work “The Little Death: Vol. 1.”

But his death has also brought into stark relief the intense intimacy that is the basis of several of his works, which were conceived during — and are partly about — personal relationships, and which now have a new emotional rawness. This is particularly apparent in the upcoming production of “The Little Death,” which Mr. Marks originally created in close collaboration with the soprano Mellissa Hughes while they were dating, and which has not been performed since they broke up in 2012.

“I viscerally got sick,” Ms. Hughes recalled in an interview about being asked to revive the work at Prototype. “I couldn’t think about doing it, and it just felt wrong.”

In 2006, as young New York-based classical music freelance artists, Mr. Marks and Ms. Hughes met on a bizarre gig: a PBS crossover special being filmed in Miami, in which their live performance was replaced by canned audio. They reconnected on Myspace, where Mr. Marks had posted some simple songs he had written.

“So many of the pieces that he wrote for himself to sing, it would not work without him,” said the composer Ted Hearne. Mr. Hearne sang in a “praise choir” assembled to accompany an early run of “The Little Death,” and will take on Mr. Marks’s part for the Prototype revival. Since the piece lacks a fully notated score, Mr. Hearne is learning the music primarily by listening closely to the album.

“I have to be able to perform it with as much confidence and moxie and guts as he would,” he said. He helped persuade Ms. Hughes to sing, telling her, she recalled, “If you don’t do it, the piece dies with Matt.”

“The Little Death” was Ms. Kouyoumdjian’s first introduction to Mr. Marks’s music. She was so captivated by a 2010 performance that, as she was leaving the concert, she walked into a glass door and broke her nose. She and Mr. Marks met a couple years later to discuss a potential collaboration with her ensemble, Hotel Elefant, and began dating. (That project was recorded before Mr. Marks’s death, and will be part of a future release of his music on New Amsterdam.)

Mr. Marks was a longtime resident of Brooklyn, and he and Ms. Kouyoumdjian would often visit unfamiliar parts of the borough. One such excursion involved a bus trip — during which they shared a pair of headphones to listen to Mariah Carey — to the serene Salt Marsh Nature Center in Marine Park. Not long afterward, Mr. Marks began a new project, the pop monodrama “Headphone Splitter,” which takes a lightly fictionalized account of their date as its point of departure: The characters Matt and Baby cozily split headphones on the B41 to go bird-watching on a lazy Saturday, and witness a brutal ax murder.

“Having this sixth sense of twisting everything sweet into something really dark, he thought, ‘Oh, this would be the perfect beginning for this murder mystery,’” Ms. Kouyoumdjian said. With the director Nick Leavens, “Headphone Splitter” was to be developed into a series of music videos driven by Mr. Marks’s singing, although he only recorded the first three episodes.

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