"..a Blake aphorism “Energy is Eternal Delight” – a notion which idealises my attitude to the band and confirms my instincts about music and even life itself” Steve Martland "Strangely enough, music is always judged by its beauty. Strangely enough, because good composers only rarely strive for something which people call beautiful. Composers strive for clearness, functionality, explicitness, emotional expressiveness sometimes; they want to move listeners, to shock them, or to clarify things. They want to pose problems, not to solve them. They want to show that the world, and also the world of thinking, is more complex than we want to think. Steve Martland's music shows this on different levels. It sounds sometimes simple, but it is complex. Sometimes it sounds very complicated, but in reality it is very clear. This is what I would call a 'dialectical' approach to composing, and in the long-term the best attitude toward creating something that could be understood as beautiful." Louis Andriessen
Martland first came to prominence on the British music scene with his break-through orchestral work Baba Yar, recording with the legendaryFactory Records and later forming the Steve Martland Band with the express intention to perform his compositions.
Martland's whole profound moral outlook expressed in music of celebratory optimism that dances and has joy, in-keeping with his almost apocalyptic idealism, a tendency towards the social morals of a latter-day William Blake in opposition to the Thatcherist material world of the early 1980's, encapsulated everything about the man and his music, music that has an immediate and compelling appeal.
When confronted with an orchestra, he'd expand its horizons with non-classical instrumentations found in rock, pop and jazz; confront him with a rock or jazz line-up and he'd expand its horizons with techniques from Mediaeval or Baroque. The man and the music contained the energy of rock, pop and dance music as well as the rigorous compositional technique and clarity of vision served by organised and strictly disciplined musical thought. At the same time, he conformed neither to the perceived social attitudes of the latter nor the commercialised musical limitations of the former. Simply fearlessly demanding and virtuosic music without apology.
Steve Martland was born in Liverpool, originally planned a career in the Royal Navy. After studying music at Liverpool university he decided to study composition, not in the UK, but in progressive Holland with Louis Andriessen, as well as with Gunther Schuller at Tanglewood in the US.
Martland's refusal to conform to the received stereotype of a composer and his outspoken criticism of what he regarded as the snobbery and elitism of the classical music establishment, particularly during the 1980's and 1990's, may have made him a controversial figure in some quarters. But among a whole future generation of performers and composers that followed, it set a bold, refreshing example for contemporary art music's energised existence beyond the marginal confines of institutionalised academia. Martland engaged the public with a concept of the value of music that potentially confronts its consumerist tendencies, a legacy and spirit that permeates todays contemporary music scene.
The strength of Martland's conviction that a composer has a moral responsibility to the social reality of their times was further reflected in his work in music education. His frequent workshops directing composition projects in schools and academies at home and abroad, saw him initiate and run 'Strike Out', a summer school which helped produce a new generation of young composers from less-privileged backgrounds. He was the artistic director of SPNM (the Society for the Promotion of New Music) from 2002-04, an organisation that had supported his own Babi Yar.
Steve Martland, great composer, boundary-breaker, a guiding light a true maverick and a very warm, funny and enormously likeable guy, his Blake-like spirit both the music and the man lives on.
Further info: www.nonclassical.co.uk