Iconoclastic British composer who always went his own way tragically passes at 53.
Steve Martland was a composer, performer and music educator who bucked the trend over many years. Born in 1959 in Liverpool he studied composition in Holland with Louis Andriessen.
His preoccupation with the function of the composer in society is reflected in his commitment to music education, believing in the educational impact of creativity: “Creativity is everything that is against what's going on in the world right now. It's to do with tolerance and understanding other people".
Throughout a fruitful musical career he worked almost exclusively with artists outside of traditional classical institutions – in particular with Dutch and American groups, freelance musicians and especially his own Steve Martland Band. He also worked with the King’s Singers and the percussionist Evelyn Glennie for whom he wrote Street Songs (later presented by the Monteverdi Choir and Colin Currie under John Eliot Gardiner).
His works are frequently intended to be played amplified and their muscular and rhythmic forms lead to many dance commissions. Drill was written for the Sydney Opera House while Crossing the Border was a commission for the National Ballet of Amsterdam. London Contemporary Dance Theatre premièred Dance Works, one of his most performed pieces, while Remix was awarded the SACD Prize for Video Dance Choreography Music after being choreographed for BBC TV by Aletta Collins.
Perhaps his most popular piece, the five minute Principia, was adopted as the theme music for the BBC radio programme The Music Machine. His massive orchestral work Babi Yar (1983) was premiered in the USA by the St. Louis Sympony under Leonard Slatkin and almost simultaneously in the UK by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Nicolas Cleobury. It was subsequently recorded for the Factory label.
In August 1998 he collaborated with the band Spiritualized on a project for the Flux Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland. He also wrote and directed A Temporary Arrangement with the Sea, a film about Louis Andriessen.
Most recently Martland wrote Starry Night for percussion and string quartet, the test piece for the TROMP International Music Festival and Competition. Martland was composer in residence at the ETNA Music Festival in Sicily in 2006 and 2007.
Martland died in his sleep on the night of May 6. His death was announced by his publisher, Schott Music.
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