Mary Lou Newmark

Mary Lou Newmark

 Los Angeles, California, USA


Mary Lou Newmark is an electric violinist, composer, and poet/playwright living in Los Angeles.  Her music combines live violin performance, original poetry, electronically processed sounds, beats, and bird songs.  Mary Lou creates unique compositions that inhabit their own musical ecosystems.

Mary Lou began her career as a classically trained musician.  She holds Masters degrees from USC (violin performance) and UCLA (music composition).  In her late twenties Mary Lou began to compose music.  As her compositions soon stretched the limits of the acoustic violin’s techniques, she discovered a passion for electronic music.  With an unlimited palette of musical colors, she began to specialize in performing her own work for solo electric violin and e-violin with soundscapes.

Her first CD, “Green Angel,” was released in 2000.  This debut work included electronic sound compositions and original poems, as well as instrumental pieces that reminded reviewers of Bach, Jimi Hendrix, and Robert Rauschenberg.  Writing in 21st Century Music, David Cleary found the CD “soulful and highly charged.”

As Mary Lou continued to write both music and poetry, she expanded her creations to the theater.  Her hybrid theatrical work, “Street Angel Diaries,” premiered in December 2006, in a full theatrical production at the Boston Court Performing Arts Center, Main Stage in Pasadena, CA.  With original text, poetry, and music, “Street Angel Diaries” looked at homelessness from the perspectives of the  homeless themselves, based on first-hand accounts Mary Lou gathered from current or formerly homeless people. Philip Brandes of the Los Angeles Times hailed the work’s “haunting score” and went on to applaud Mary Lou’s “modernistic musical sketches on her neon-lit electric violin—picture Laurie Anderson on a good hair day, but aiming more at emotions than intellect.”

Mary Lou’s second CD, “Music From Street Angel Diaries,” drew music and text from her stage play.

In October 2015, Mary Lou’s latest theater work, “Breathing Room,” premiered in a full theatrical production at the Greenway Court Theatre in Los Angeles.  In “Breathing Room,” two neighbors—an artist and a science teacher with a mysterious past—negotiate living with hummingbirds, meatball eating bears, backyard chickens, and “modern technologic vertigo.”  In his Best of Los Angeles Theater 2015, critic Ernest Kearney called “Breathing Room” a “joyous dance!”  The Los Angeles Theater Critics at ArtsinLA awarded Mary Lou a 2015 SAGE award for Best Musical Score.

Some of the tracks on Mary Lou’s current CD originated with “Breathing Room.”  But clearly she has spent considerable time in the studio, shaping and distilling theater moments into music experience.  “Coyote” was originally a monologue with introductory music for an actor on stage.  Now it is “Bossa Coyote,” with heavily processed e-violin, a one word lyric, and a Latin beat.  “Bed, Bath…and Bird” combines music from two very different scenes – an enlightening encounter with hummingbirds and a dizzying experience at a large housewares store.  The electric violin’s graceful melody is interrupted by soundscapes of sirens, computers, cash registers, and vocal utterances.  Picture a wild bird flying over a supermarket mall.

“Room to Breathe,” the current CD, retains the soaring electric violin solos and imaginative word play of Mary Lou’s past work.  But there is much more here.  Mary Lou has been listening to the rhythms and pitch of animal sounds and finding the music in them.

She comments, “I am trying to create a conversation between natural sounds and electronic sounds, on a much deeper level than I had in the past.  I am fond of paradox.  I like putting together disparate sounds and finding common elements among them.”

Sometimes the music is ambient, sometimes it is cinematic, and sometimes the sounds contrast.  You hear an electric guitar with the bawl of coyotes, and you hear a soulful cello with the howl of wolves.  It all ends with “Natural Love,” a peaceful poem of hope.

Mary Lou’s new project is “Trading Storms,” a collaboration with poet Brendan Constantine.  Mary Lou and Brendan are creating several new works together in a variety of combinations of word and sound.  The pieces spar, animate, highlight, and intensify each other.  Much of this new work is likely to find its way to Mary Lou’s next CD.