Red-Thread Smirk

I just uploaded my little flipcam video of Red-Thread Smirk, live at Galapagos Arts Space, to YouTube. Red-Thread Smirk is the third in a series of songs written by myself and librettist/lyricist Royce Vavrek called Sex Objects, featuring unique characters and their intimate relationships with inanimate objects.

Here’s the video and I’ll include some more info on the song/project below.

Red-Thread Smirk

Music by Matt Marks
Lyrics by Royce Vavrek


Ted Hearne – Voice
Mellissa Hughes – Conductor
Cornelius Dufallo – Violin
Nadia Sirota – Viola
Clarice Jensen – Cello
Taylor Levine – Guitar
Matt Quayle – Piano
Chris Thompson – Drum Set

From “Sex Objects”:

In “Red-Thread Smirk” a young sailor chastises a dame de voyage (a cloth doll used for sex aboard a ship) for becoming the sexual object of desire, a post he held before she arrived. He makes sure she understands that her lack of a mouth with deprive the men of a great pleasure that he can provide.


Fuckin’ Mona Lisa lyin’ there.  You don’t deserve a mouth. Not that red-thread smirk he gave ya. Smith was the one who done it.  Smith, never liked ‘im. Smith, I wanna… It’s Smith we go to when our buttons fall off. I wanna kill ‘im.  Someday I will kill ‘im. Push ‘im overboard. Then the boat’ll be full’a guys with shirts gapin’ open.  And that’s fine by me.  Fine by me.

You were one of ‘is projects.  Smith was doin’ an awful lot of sewin’.  Boys called ‘im Pussy, but he just smirked.  I knew he was up to no good. Sneaking into my bed less’n less.  Then one day you showed up.  All stuffed and ready. No eyes no mouth no hair no nuthin’ but a ripped seam ready…  But you needed a mouth.

Fuckin’ Mona Lisa lyin’ there.  You don’t deserve a mouth. Not that red-thread smirk he gave ya.

When the boys get fall-down drunk, they let me do what your red-thread smirk can’t.  When my mouth curls up and down I gets ‘em grinnin’ like god damn Cheshire cats.  All of ‘em. Grinnin’ like fucking cats.  And I’ll take a grin over a smirk any day…


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Revolution 9 Live

Here is a live video from Alarm Will Sound‘s 1969 show at the Carlisle Theater in Carlisle, PA, performing my arrangement of Revolution 9 by The Beatles. This was a great show, everything went pretty smoothly and the sound balance worked out very well.

Unsurprisingly, I was a huge Beatles geek growing up, so it means a lot to have so many of my friends performing in my interpretation of perhaps the weirdest pop song ever. FYI, that’s our own Gavin Chuck doing the main speaking part (“number nine…”) and Courtney Orlando doing Yoko’s part at the end. I’m the guy doing all the screaming and baby noises. :)

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September 5, 2007

What happens when bread meets crust,

orange meets peel, blood meets skin?

What contains the constant meat roar beneath the surface?

Sometimes your pulse will wake you,

punching your skin visible to the eye.

Do you consider it yourself

or the phantom-works of your rebel insides?

An Experiment:

Take a finger and thread a single strand of hair around it.

With the power of your arm, yank it out of your head.

Eventually it will loosen from around your finger and fall to the floor

– how long do you think it will be until you forget about this lost piece of hair?

Who owns your heart?

I do.

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Listening for Non-Listeners

I recently became really burnt out on listening to music. My process in making music involves repeated listenings of my tracks/pieces so my time away from work began to involve more reading and watching TV and films. Thus I, a rabid music hound/record collector/mp3 pirate, found myself exchanging my headphones for a book on subway rides and deleting albums on my laptop to make space for my own projects.

Well, I’d like to turn that around.

I have, on occasion, been listening to music, but it tends to be unlike most of the music my peers are listening to, so I’ve been a little shy with it. So in the interest of full disclosure: here are some of my recent selections:

The Zombies – The Look of Love:

The Crystals – He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss)

Mozart – Piano Concerto #24

Meatloaf – It’s All Coming Back to Me

Earl – Earl Sweatshirt [pretty damn NSFW]

Schumman – Fantasiestücke Op. 12 [Maria Yudina]

Any suggestions for tunes similar to any of these?


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Happy New Years!

As my partner-in-crime, Melly Hughes, sings Rosh Hashanna services all this week I reflect on the recent arrival of September, which to folks such as myself – whose lives still oddly rotate around those calendars Academic and Concert – is a New Year of a different sort. It has been a fun, crazy, and not-very-relaxing summer here in New York (not to mention unbearably hot!), and the slow arrival of Autumn is achingly welcome. In the meantime, I close myself in my living room here in Park Slope (our recent annual lease-signing an additional New Year) and blast the A/C, pretending our electricity bills don’t exist. It feels like a personal New Year because I have literally one zillion new things to work on, almost all of them fun, exciting, and fulfilling in a way that frightens me. I miss my blog very much, so perhaps this can be a new beginning for it as well – despite my shameful history of repeated false starts. I’d like to get back into writing; Twitter seems to have stolen much of the steam that used to power many a late-night rant or three. Also, I miss the utter self-indulgence of writing a blog. I love being pretentious and I love living in a city that rewards pretentiousness. I want to write about my gigs with a false sense of modesty, dance the backspace bolero with my right ring finger, and rewrite it with an equal and opposite false sense of bravado. That kind of pretentiousness. Not in the situation I described but in how I wrote it. And that too.

In all seriousness, I have some cool stuff coming up that I would very much like to write about, pretentiously or not. I have a bad habit of letting very cool things go by without highlighting them on my website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc. I think it would be nice to give people who care to read about what goes on in my life the option of reading more than just a snappy Tweet. I’m entering a year with many changes in my life and much uncertainty. Maybe it will be more fun and comfortable if I just lay it all out on the table.

Oh yeah, I’ll be damned if all of my posts are going to be Matt/gig/music-related, so stay tuned for other totally random stuff.

In related news, I saw this on the street today in Downtown Brooklyn:




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The Little Death: Vol. 1 out now on New Amsterdam Records!

After working on it for over three years (!), my post-Christian nihilist pop-opera, The Little Death: Vol. 1 is out now on New Amsterdam Records! It features myself and Mellissa Hughes on vocals, and James Moore and Mike Gurfield on Guitar and Trumpet!

Here is New Amsterdam’s description:

The Little Death: Vol. 1 is an ambitious new work that fuses bombastic electro-pop hooks, frenetically chopped break beats, hypnotic lyrics, and apocalyptic Christian imagery. Holding these disparate elements together is an unconventional narrative that follows two characters, Boy (Matt Marks) and Girl (Mellissa Hughes), on a journey through the world of Fundamentalist Evangelism, as they cope with repressed sexuality in a modern world. The sample-heavy work draws on musical references that echo the character’s sexual-religious confusion, including pop songs and gospel standards with evocative titles (“He Touched Me” and “When God Dips His Love In My Heart”). Marks took most of the sampled material from his own collection of 1970s gospel albums and classic hip-hop and soul recordings. Using a DIY approach, he produced the album using only a couple of microphones and a laptop running Ableton Live.

You can listen to the entire album streaming on the New Amsterdam site. And you can buy it here on Amazon or iTunes!

Here are a couple excerpts from some early reviews:

The Big City:

The Little Death is music theater, pop/rock opera really, and tremendously accomplished. Marks made the whole thing himself and plays all the instruments, except for guitar and trumpet, and sings the part of Boy with the excellent and versatile Mellissa Hughes as Girl. The music captures pop styles in the way a musical does, by hitting certain numbers, but there’s nothing wrong with that approach (Urinetown is a great example of how well the standard style can work) and in any case the music is just so good that I found myself strolling through Brooklyn this morning humming ‘OMG I’m Shot’ to myself, certainly the best sock-hop-dance-pop-driving-rock song about being shot ever written. The Little Death also offers bits of staggered punk and erotic rock ballad, but in a nutshell Marks works very much like Mikel Rouse, but more explosively intense and exuberant, with touches of Carl Stone. Making music in this theatrical style means connecting with, but not pandering to, the audience, there’s some obligation to give the listener enough of what they may expect or be familiar with as a bit of legerdemain before hitting them with the goods.

The Indie Handbook:

No, I don’t know what a “post-Christian nihilist pop opera” is exactly, but that’s what they tell me Matt Marks‘ new piece/album The Little Death: Vol 1 (New Amsterdam) is and music like this doesn’t come along every day—or ever—so I am more than willing to accept the moniker they’ve chosen. In my mind, it’s what Eric Whitacre’s Paradise Lost could have been were it more concise and beat-centric. Because there are some killer beats on this album, beginning with the “Penetration Overture”, into the climax of “OMG I’m Shot” (one of the many incarnations of the petit mortmotif), and pretty much everywhere else.

Through extensive sampling, dubstep, breakbeats, and evocation of 1970s gospel, The Little Death tells the story of Boy (sung by Marks) and Girl (Mellissa Hughes), two teenagers exploring their relationship in the context of American Evangelicalism. As such, it is an album that connects on multiple levels. At turns dramatic, ridiculous, beautiful, and just plain fun, there is plenty to please the casual listener (I have been singing “OMG I’m Shot” to myself all day)

The Little Death: Vol. 1 will be having a two-week run this July at The Ontological Theater in NYC. The specific dates are July 8-11 and 14-17. This will be the most extensive version of the live opera yet. It will be directed once again by the fantastic Rafael Gallegos.

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The Little Death: Vol. 1 out Tomorrow! May 25th, 2010




One more day folks! Pre-order on Amazon NOW! Also, here is the link to purchase the album on iTunes (link won’t work until tomorrow, btw).

In the meantime, there are soon to be a plethora of interviews with Mellissa Hughes and I about the project, which I will heartily link to. We did a fun one today with Ellis Ludwig-Leone from New Amsterdam. Here’s an excerpt:

And while I’m at it, here’s one more shot from our video shoot. This one from the Hamptons!

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