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Kill Screen

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Matthew A. Browne

Matthew A Browne

Subtitle: An 8-Bit Danse Macabre for Wind Ensemble

General Info

Year: 2010
Duration: c. 5:15
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Maestoso Music
Cost: Score and Parts (print) - $175.00   |   Score Only (print) - $20.00


Full Score
C Piccolo
Flute I-II
Oboe I-II
English Horn
Bassoon I-II
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
B-flat Bass Clarinet I-II
B-flat Soprano Saxophone
E-flat Alto Saxophone
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III-IV
E-flat Horn or Alto I-II-III-IV
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II-III
Bass Trombone
String Bass
Percussion I-II-III-IV, including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Bell Tree
  • Brake Drum
  • Sand Block
  • Snare Drum
  • Suspended Cymbal
  • Tambourine
  • Tam-Tam
  • Temple Blocks
  • Tom-Tom
  • Vibraphone
  • Whip
  • Xylophone


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

“A kill screen is a stage or level in a an arcade game that stops the player's progress due to a programming error or design oversight. Rather than "ending" in a traditional sense, the game will crash, freeze, or behave so erratically that further play is extremely hard or even impossible.” –Wikipedia

This piece is largely about addiction to video games, but also is meant to evoke an exciting and terrifying urban legend. Back in 1981, a select few arcades near Portland, Oregon, received a new 8-bit game (similar to the fan favorite Tempest) called Polybius. The game was said to be extremely popular, almost to the point of obsession. Just a short time after its release the game disappeared without a trace of its existence. Polybius enthusiasts were said to have experienced several psychological side effects, including horrific nightmares, amnesia, and even suicidal thoughts, according to the myth.

This piece strives to infuse the listener in the experience of playing such a game, as described in each segment. The first section, Insert Coin, is fierce and eager, as a potential Polybius gamer would be. Next is Nocnitsa’s Dance, a demented, off-beat scherzo that refers to the Polish mythological spirit relating to the scientific phenomenon known as Hypnagogia, or visions occurring during the transitional state between wakefulness and sleep.

The following section, Psychogenic Fugue, is slower and more opaque than the rest of the piece, and refers to the technical term for a form of amnesia involving memory and personality. In keeping with the musical meaning of the term “fugue”, this segment features extensive use of imitative counterpoint. From this we move into Sense Deletion, a reprise of the dance tune, this time with even more drive and force. The title refers to the English translation for the game’s supposed creating company, Sinneslöschen. The piece ends with a chaotic bang in the short coda, Game Over.

- Program Note by composer


  • 2016 ASCAP/CBDNA Frederick Fennell Prize, Special Distinction

Commercial Discography

None discovered thus far.


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • Eastman School of Music (Rochester, N.Y.) Wind Ensemble (Mark Scatterday, conductor) – 4 December 2019
  • University of North Carolina, Greensboro, Symphonic Band (Jonathan Caldwell, conductor) – 3 October 2019
  • Virginia Tech (Blacksburg) Wind Ensemble (Jonathan Caldwell, conductor) – 23 February 2018 (CBDNA 2018 Southern Conference, Tampa, Fla.)
  • University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) Concert Band (Courtney Snyder, conductor) – 11 April 2016

Works for Winds by this Composer