Steampunk: Partita for Mixed Dectet
Harville, Grant. Partita for Mixed Dectet "Steampunk." World Premiere Idaho State University, 21 January 2017.
From Mr. Harville, e-mail to Brian Attebery, 23 January 2017 (lightly edited, primarily for format):
1. Preludio: The Gilbourne Line Takes on Horses at Kingsfirth for an Additional 3 Shillings
Interlude: Trio in B-Dur, op. 24 (Allegro), von Herr P. A. Kreusser
2. Passacaglia: The Clock Tower in Ploughman’s Square Has 4 Faces and 17 Storeys
Interlude: A Ballade by M. Coppée - “Pour modifier notre patraque”
3. Aria: Aviatrix Geertje van Wieren’s Airship Floats Eternally Over the Thulean Ice Floes
Interlude: Variations Brillantes on a French Popular Song, by Mr. Tolhurst (Miss Fieldhouse)
4. Fuga: Professor Granville P. Hartwick’s Quadruple Aeolipile Fails to Serve Any Earthly Purpose
Instrumentation: piccolo/flute/alto flute; E-flat clarinet/B-flat clarinet/bass clarinet/contrabass clarinet; bassoon/contrabassoon; horn; violin; viola; cello; string bass; percussion: grand piano/upright piano/synthesizer (or just synthesizer)
Note: While steampunk is generally described as incorporating elements of 19th-century culture, fashion, and (especially) technology, such definition rarely applies to steampunk music. Almost all self-described steampunk musicians perform in more recent musical styles, particularly post-1960 popular, film, and musical theater styles; steampunk musicians who make an effort to imitate earlier styles generally reference the early jazz and cabaret music of the 1920s. (Ironically, the actual music of the 19th century seems to feature more in steampunk literature, as in K.W. Jeter's Infernal Devices, with its robot Paganini, and Morris and Ballantine's references to opera.)
Partita is by no means a criticism of existing steampunk music; it is rather an exploration of another approach. The combination of electric and acoustic instruments (the string instruments are amplified and distorted) reflects steampunk's anachronism, as does the combination of musical styles of various eras. The numbered movements are 21st-century realizations of 18th-century movement types, while the interludes are examples of genres popular in the 19th century. (Ensemble members who do not play the interludes are encouraged to sit with the audience and emulate early 19th-century concert etiquette.) Meanwhile, the extensive woodwind doubling and variety of unusual percussion instruments pay tribute to steampunk virtues of technological improvisation and deliberate impracticality.
(signed) Grant Harville Artistic Director and Conductor, Idaho State-Civic Symphony Music Director, Boise Philharmonic Youth Orchestra