an blog | AJBlog Central | Contact me | Advertise | Follow me:

Sudden death of a striking British composer

Steve Martland – Liverpudlian, individualist, anti-classical establishment, t-shirt wearer, unmistakably himself – has died, aged 53. Refusing to recognise musical boundaries, he wrote works of the most direct expression, often using pop music devices to bring over his message. He hated Thatcherism with a passion and took music whenever he could out on the road, into the lives of ordinary people. He is utterly irreplaceable.

An announcement from his publisher, Schott, says that Steve died in his sleep on the night of 6 May 2013.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. This is very sad news indeed. Steve was my first composition teacher and he was brilliant in every way. I probably would not be a composer today if it was not for him.

  2. Alexandra Eldin-Taylor says:

    Tragic loss. Requiescat in Pacem

  3. Very sad lost.

  4. This is a really great loss. Steve offered to teach me at RAM years ago but at the time I was keen to study with Paul Patterson so turned him down. I regret my decision to this day. He was a much needed iconoclast in new music world, and I have never known a composer as devoted to his students and the promotion of their music as Steve Martland was.

  5. Richard Prior says:

    A terrible loss of a unique compositional voice and a true artist. I always include Steve’s music in my Composition classes here in the US.

  6. I studied with Steve years ago at the RAM. He was, and still is, such an inspiration to me as a composer. I’m at a loss for words. He will be missed.

  7. This is such a tragedy. So sad. RIP

  8. A good friend. He supported me much in my early career and I spent many hours discussing music with him. Not enough composers like him and my deepest condolences go out to his family and close friends.

  9. A great loss! Steve was a raw, bold, musical talent and wore his politics on his sleeve. I remember very fondly my period of working with Steve, recording many songs, touring with his band and doing a TV documentary with Steve about Thatchers Britain. R.I.P

  10. Terrible news. I always think of his topless album cover though, not t-shirts. :-)

  11. rosalba di raimondo says:

    Well, at least he could go in peace, having gone after Maggie. too soon to go, I agree, he still had things to say, and judging by this reaction, pupils to inspire with his work. Let’s hope he won’t be forgotten. Che riposi in pace!

  12. I am greatly saddened to hear that Steve Martland has died – and so absurdly young. We never knew each another, but I have great admiration for his music and for his approach to music as a social force for good. Was his death unexpected, or was he already ill? Schott’s have said nothing to explain it. We shall miss him.

  13. Michael Antrobus - Oslo/Norway. says:

    ALL TO EARLY!!! I can remember him as a member of the University of Liverpool Student Symphony Orchestra, of which I was conductor, in the late seventies, very concentrated but with a terrific sense of humour, especially during the after rehearsal/concert pub visits and parties. WHAT A SAD LOSS. I’m devastated.

    Requiescat in Pacem, Steve ;-(

  14. He was a dearest friend and such a loss is painful. He was a dedicated artist, an outspoken personality with a sharp-tongued sense of humor. But above all he was a brilliant and profound composer, who strongly believed in the social role of music and, more generally, arts. A beautiful human being. We’ll miss him so much.

  15. Enrico Chiorra says:

    I am shocked. His music enriched my life.

  16. catherine muncey says:

    Having looked on Wikipedia for a list of his works, I’m pretty Steve Martland’s ‘Babi Yar’ was the wonderful piece I remember performing as a member of the RLPO in the early eighties. A memory of the energy in his music and also of his focussed presence has stayed with me through all the time and other music since then.

  17. Horrible and profoundly upsetting news. I only met Steve once, at a small birthday supper for our mutual friend, Katrin Cartlidge – who also died hideously young – in north London, 22 years ago this month. I know it was May because a week or so later I received, completely out of the blue, a signed copy of Facd306 [Glad Day]. He’d written “for this bizarre coincidence, love Steve” – the bizzare coincidence being I could tell him, utterly tongue-tied, that I’d only recently bought and listened to, thunderstruck, the now iconic Facd266 – ‘Babi Yar’ and ‘Drill’, which, unnervingly it feels today, I played, as instructed ‘at a high volume’, only last week. Even on very brief acquaintance, he was cool, kind, funny, smart & ferociously authentic – a beautiful iconoclast, the real deal. We can ill afford to be without him. RIP, Steve, your music won’t – it’ll always be there at a high volume…

  18. So shocked and saddened to hear this. I only knew him socially for the last 7-8 years as he used to live near me and I didn’t realise until now how well regarded he was and had no idea he was this iconic composer. He was a modest man, very trusting and would go out of his way to help if you needed it. I used to meet him nearly every week for a coffee & chat until he moved to the Reading area. RIP mate.

  19. keith martland says:

    I have only just found out my brother has passed away, we have’t seen each other in over 30 years and it still hasn’t sunk in yet,
    just like to say thank you to all his friends that left a message he might be gone in body but his music with live on.

  20. Heard about Steve’s sudden death only yesterday whilst listening to Radio 4. I met Steve years ago when he a lad of 17. We worked together at the Department of Employment in Birkenhead. We became great mates. He always made me laugh. Steve took me to my first Opera – Tippett at the Royal Opera House. Afterwards we stood outside selling Socialist Worker to passers by! Steve was to write a review of the opera. For years we kept in touch but then we went along separate paths. His music was breathtaking. I saw him conduct one of his works at the Royal Festival, London. The whole experience was magical. We met briefly during the interval and had a big hug. Then we parted and that was the last time I saw him. I remember a gentle, kind, generous, funny man. His death is a great loss. I have the BBC programme Albion still on video tape. It was a powerful work – I shall watch it again. When my son Jack was little he would watch Albion regularly – he loved the music and the imagery. Rest in peace dear Steve. It was an honour to have known you.

  21. It’s more then 10 days since I heard this horrible news, and I can’t get Steve out of my mind.
    I’ve known Steve for 30 years.We met at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague, where Steve studied composition by Louis Andriessen and I studied dance.
    People considered him as a very big talent already those days.
    Steve was intensely loved by a lot of people here in Amsterdam ( and other places in Holland ), where we’ve spend lots of hours laughing, discussing, dining, dancing and more laughing.
    And of course; making music, making art; fantastic times.
    When I joint The National ballet in Amsterdam as a dancer,Steve came over once again cause his piece ‘Crossing the Border’ was used by Choreographer Ted Brandsen and it was wonderful to have him around.
    Lately I met him again in Reading, where we spend the whole afternoon together, like the old days, laughing most of the time.
    That was the last time I got to see him…

    Steve stood up for the less fortunate, was devoted to his students and was a beautiful person.
    My deepest condolences to family and everybody that loved him.
    I miss him so much.
    Rest in piece dear friend.

  22. 53 is no age at all.

    I met Steve Martland when he appeared at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival in 1990. The composition of his that was performed was vibrant, approachable and alive. His no-nonsense approach to composition a breath of fresh air. He was wearing his trade mark white T-shirt.

    Requiscat in pacem.

  23. Here’s an essay I recently wrote in memory of Sir Colin Davis, with for whom I played many times in the 1970s and ’80s as a violinist in the Boston Symphony.
    (Republished with the consent of Edward Reichel)

an ArtsJournal blog