Marc Mellits is one of the more promising American composers of his generation. His style is eclectic but can be described as post-minimalist for its extending of the vocabulary and methods of iconic minimalist figures like Steve Reich and Philip Glass, composers whom Mellits acknowledges as influences. Syracuse, NY-based Mellits also touches on popular musical elements in his works, often straddling the line between serious and popularRead more styles.
Mellits was born in Baltimore, MA, in 1966. He exhibited musical talent in his early childhood, taking his first piano lessons at age 6. In 1984 he enrolled at the Eastman School of Music, from where he graduated in 1988. His earliest works date to the Eastman years and include a Piano Concerto (1984) and several chamber works (1985-1986).
Mellits' post-graduate studies were at Yale School of Music (1989-1991) and at Cornell University (1991-1996). He also studied at Tanglewood. Without doubt, his list of teachers over the years has included some of the most prominent American composers of the twentieth century: Jacob Druckman, Christopher Rouse, Steven Stucky, Samuel Adler, and Joseph Schwantner.
Compositions flowed from Mellits' pen throughout the 1980s and '90s, the composer showing a predilection for instrumental music for small ensembles. Beginning with his 1991 work Aggravated Assault for two amplified pianos, he began using electronic elements in his music. Around the turn of the new century most of his works involved electronics: a series of 11 chamber pieces for the exotic combination of amplified violin, amplified cello, amplified marimba, electric guitar, and keyboard dates to 2001. Their playful titles (Lefty's Elegy, The Misadventures of Soup, etc.) and their rhythmic, popular-oriented style -- often exhibiting rock elements -- have attracted a significant crossover audience.
By the dawn of the new millennium Mellits was receiving prestigious commissions from the likes of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra (for whom he wrote Brick in 2005), Kronos Quartet, Canadian Brass, and guitarist Dominic Frasca. Mellits was given the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Award in 2004. By this time many of his works had appeared on recordings, but it was not until 2006 that a CD was issued devoted exclusively to his compositions. Entitled Paranoid Cheese and containing the 11 chamber works referenced above, the music on the CD was performed by the Mellits Consort, an ensemble founded by Mellits, in which he performs on the keyboard. Read less