Steven Bryant (b. 1972) is an acclaimed, award-winning composer whose works often straddle different media. He is a three-time recipient of the National Band Association’s William D. Revelli Composition Award (2007, 2008, 2010). His first orchestral work, Loose Id for Orchestra, was “orchestrated like a virtuoso” according to celebrated composer Samuel Adler. His epic work for wind band and electronics, Ecstatic Waters, has received more performances than any other piece of its kind. His other work includes pieces for wind band (some with added electronics), orchestra, chamber ensembles, and electronic music. He studied composition at The Juilliard School with John Corigliano, at the University of North Texas with Cindy McTee, and at Ouachita University with W. Francis McBeth.
The Machine Awakes is the result of a 2012 commission from a consortium of 20 schools. It is unique in at least two respects. First, while it is a grade 2 piece, it comes with optional grade 3 parts, allowing more advanced players a greater challenge that fits in with the rest of the band. More importantly, it may be the first piece ever written for young band and electronics. Bryant gives it a Terminator-like back story as well:
The Machine Awakes is the sound of something not human (but of humans hands) – something not entirely organic, but most definitely alive – waking up for the first time. From the opening swirling textures, we sense the first hesitant sparks of thought, attempting to find form and coherence. This new machine – sentient, aware – comes fully awake, possessed of emphatic self-determination and unfathomable purpose.
Here’s the piece in a live performance by a high school band.
Go to Bryant’s website for more recordings of the piece, including the original MIDI realization and a near-professional live recording.
Obviously Bryant likes and is comfortable in electronic media. He has a YouTube account, a Twitter handle, and a Facebook fan page. He has a fantastic website with a blog attached. He also numbers the revisions of his music like computer software: for instance, his latest version of Dusk is version 1.4. In his words, “The old version (1.2) is NOT compatible” with the new. He also writes dedicated electronic music. My favorite, which I heard when I sat in at his session at the Ball State University Conducting Workshop, is called Hummingbrrd. Click the link to listen, and prepare to be amazed!