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.
ImPercynations is the result of a 2002 commission from Joe Brashier and the Valdosta State University Wind Ensemble in honor of retired professor Ed Barr’s years of service to the Department of Music. In it, Bryant combines pieces of Percy Grainger’s Lincolnshire Posy in new ways. As he describes it:
ImPercynations evolved from a similar impulse as another work of mine, Chester Leaps In, both of which are a part of my Parody Suite. Melodic fragments from various pieces of music tend to embed themselves in my mind, and repeat in short little loops incessantly, necessitating some sort of exorcism. In the case of Chester Leaps In, I took the initial phrase of the melody and juxtaposed it with radically different music, in order to provide some humorous contrast (and perhaps also to try and jar the whole thing loose from my head). With ImPercynations, I took a different approach with the source music, and used various melodies and melodic fragments from each of the six movements of Lincolnshire Posy as foils for each other, so that the entire work is built from material drawn from Percy Grainger‘s original. The motivic and rhythmic foundation of the piece is from the first movement, “Lisbon”, which provides the (mostly) 6/8 meter and the majority of musical material, followed closely by melodies from the sixth movement (“The Lost Lady Found”), with sprinklings of fragments from the middle movements.
Grainger described his Lincolnshire Posy, based on English folk-songs, as a bouquet of musical “wildflowers.” If his music is a bouquet, then ImPercynations is the genetically-altered, crossbred, hybrid offspring of his wildflowers – a musical “Franken-flower.” Welcome to my laboratory.
Here’s the piece in a live performance by the Sunderman Conservatory Wind Symphony at Gettysburg College.
Go to Bryant’s website for a slightly cleaner recording of the piece.
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 in 2012, is called Hummingbrrd. Click the link to listen, and prepare to be amazed!