Bruce Stevenson is a band geek turned computer geek. He has been composing music for more than 40 years, originally drawing his inspirations from the Beatles, the Moody Blues and King Crimson.
He started as a drummer, playing in groups such as A.L. Richard and Hereafter.
He then learned piano. The piano was where his ideas started to take musical form.
No longer. For the last 10 to 12 years the computer mouse is his instrument of choice. The creative process is like a "mysterious chore," the mouse moving over its pad like it is a Ouija board. Stevenson inputs tones and notes, and the computer helps him shape then into ideas. Ideas become lines of music. One line of music leads to another. He layers the lines atop one another.
Sometimes the layers exceed what one person can play. "Fanfare Prelude" was intended for piano. It became so complex Stevenson had to arrange it for more instruments. "There were too many lines for four limbs," he said.
His latest composition scrolls across the computer screen of his Rock Hill home. Music bursts from his speakers. He follows the score, listening to the lines of the organ, a trumpet, a French horn, a trombone and tuba. There is the steady beat of a drum. There is also a choir part, but the voices are missing.
As Stevenson listens, he provides commentary.
Pointing to the screen, he says, "that's a jazz chord," or "Mozart could have written that," or "it's an anti-climatic climax."
Ninety-six pages of music are over in 13 minutes.
A debut on Sunday
On Sunday, the live version of the piece, "Missa Bravis," or Brief Mass, will debut during the 10:30 a.m. service at the Woodland United Methodist Church, 801 N. Cherry St. where Stevenson is a member of the choir. Stevenson has arranged all the music for the service, which include "Fanfare Prelude." The fanfare concludes the service.
"I am a singer who sings like a drummer. I have three good notes," he said.
On Sunday, Stevenson won't be singing. He will be playing an "octapad" which electronically simulates the sounds of tympanis.
That pad doesn't take up much space. That's good. With four brass musicians crammed into the choir loft there isn't much room to maneuver around the 15 or so singers. It would be impossible to place one, much less four.
In 13 minutes Stevenson had condensed "centuries of Christianity and put it one piece."
Like traditional church masses, the choir sings in Latin. Again, Stevenson has condensed much of the liturgy. There are just 40 words of Latin in the mass, and translations will be provided in the bulletin.
The piece traces Jesus' journey into Jerusalem and his death.
The opening movement is titled "Kyrie" drawing its text from the Kýrie, eléison, Greek for "Lord have mercy."
The opening movement is about Jesus making his entrance into Jerusalem. The Jews were expecting a king, and Stevenson's music is militaristic, with a pounding rhythm. "It could have come from a Roman movie, like Spartacus," he said.
"Gloria" follows. Stevenson draws from a familiar Latin text of "Gloria in excelsis Deo," proclaiming the "heaven and earth of full" of God's glory.
"Sanctus" is next. It is the choir's favorite, says the director, the Rev. Marsha R. Bentley.
It begins with a slow, peaceful and reverent "holy, holy, holy, Lord," which Stevenson said could have been played by any big band of the 1940s. The harmonies are contemporary.
The piece erupts into rounds of "hosannas" that could have been written by Mozart, Stevenson said.
The final movement is "Agnus Dei" or Lamb of God.
Some of the musical figures from previous movements are repeated, only in a subtler way. The character of the piece is pure 16th century with a few modern harmonies, Stevenson said.
There is the beat of the tympany, this time softer, gentler.
It is the heartbeat of Jesus, Stevenson said. Finally it fades away. Jesus has died on the cross.
Video from a rehearsal of "Missa Bravis"