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Celebrating the legacy of Steve Martland: a boundary-breaking composer

31 May 24 | Events

Iconoclastic composer Steve Martland (1954-2013), known for crossing musical boundaries, has inspired an exciting project to explore and revive his ground-breaking music and introduce local audiences to his work who may be unfamiliar with contemporary classical music. Ahead of a performance at The Bullingdon, Oxford in June, we reflect on the legacy of this experimental composer who made significant contributions to contemporary classical music. As we pass the 11th anniversary of Martland’s passing in May, his innovative spirit and defiance of convention continues to resonate, making his work as relevant today as it was during his lifetime.

Breaking boundaries in music

Steve Martland was not content with the conventional confines of classical music. His compositions were a unique blend of the classical tradition mixed with the unconventional. He is the only composer signed to the now legendary Factory Records. With them he performed alongside DJs at infamous Haçienda nightclub and released albums under their ‘Factory Classical’ imprint. Factory’s aim here resonated with Martland’s in that it sought to cross boundaries, this time in marketing classical music to their regular post-punk/alternative audience.

Unconventional and informal performances

One of Martland’s most significant contributions was his mission to perform classical music outside the traditional concert hall environment. He wanted his music to be accessible to all and often staged his performances in less formal, more dynamic settings such as clubs, pubs and local arts centres, bringing his powerful compositions to new and diverse audiences.

Inspiring research

The project has developed into a series of concerts in collaboration with the Komuna Collective – a group of young artists, musicians, DJs, and composers committed to an interdisciplinary approach to the arts – bringing Martland’s compositions for string quartet and the Steve Martland Band to bars and clubs in Oxford and London alongside newly commissioned works. Inspired by his experimental approach the performances will see local DJs work in and around the classical works performed.

Newly commissioned works

Whilst Martland wrote a series of works for the ensemble line-up of the Steve Martland Band, with his death in 2013 these works are rarely heard together and few composers have written for this instrumentation which is a great shame given that it crosses many genre and audience borders. You can expect rarely heard performances of these works and newly commissioned pieces inspired by Martland’s approach. The upcoming concert will be a fitting tribute to his lasting influence and a celebration of his enduring legacy.

Don’t miss Steve Martland Hits the Club on Friday 14 June, 8.30pm, at The Bullingdon, Oxford, which is free to attend.

31 May 24

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