Æther Feature —The Extraordinary Contraptions

by Philippa Ballantine on November 1, 2012

Every Thursday, the Archives will feature artists, musicians, and makers of all variety, entered for your approval here in the Archives. With so many talented individuals to choose from, we know it is a challenge to feature every clever creative worthy of note, but perhaps we might endeavour to introduce to you a new name in our community of steam and cog, or perhaps remind you of one artisan’s successful efforts to bring the past that never was to the here and now.

This week’s Æther Feature for November 1st, 2012, submitted for your pleasure:

 

Perhaps the only more daunting question than “what is steampunk” that we steampunks regularly encounter is “what is steampunk (insert artistic medium here).”

As a singer and bass player for Atlanta, GA-based transdimensional rock ensemble The Extraordinary Contraptions, I am constantly asked to answer to the nature of steampunk music. I tend not to emphasize a strict definition for steampunk music as much as I prefer highlighting the very broad possibilities inherent in creating the soundtrack for any of a myriad of alternate histories.

Remember, your alternate history has an alternate music history as well. Perhaps your story takes place in a world where the composers of the romantic period had access to electric guitars and synthesizers. Or maybe your story is set in a steamy modern day where Jimi Hendrix played the banjo instead of the electric guitar or the Beatles were a string quartet instead of a rock band. Or just maybe your world features an airship captain that serenades you with sequencers and a darbuka. Or maybe, just maybe, your epic surface-to-air combat scene requires an aggressive waltz, melding pianos, double bass, electric guitars and rock and roll drums. That is, of course, where you can find the The Extraordinary Contraptions’ corner of the creative map.

An alternate (if possibly frustrating) definition for steampunk music might be “music inspired by steampunk media and/or experiences.” One prime example of a work inspired by the creator’s experience of steampunk media and other steampunk enthusiasts would be The Extraordinary Contraptions’ song, “Prelude to the Nocturnis,” whose brand new music video debuted on youtube this week.

The song’s balladic lyrics are drawn in part from descriptions of characters developed by enthusiasts from Atlanta’s steampunk cultural scene. With such a strong nautical theme, word-painting the story with a waltzing sea shanty was an obvious, yet winning choice. The epic nature of the story and accompanying music went on to further influence the development of the music video into a nod to Georges Méliès’ classic film, A Trip to the Moon, a work whose visual style is often cited as influential to latter day steampunk creatives.

The video was made with the help of a group of dedicated actors, filmmakers, and visual artists (not to mention four very nervous musicians who’d never before attempted such an ambitious visual undertaking), all of whom have ties to Atlanta’s steampunk cultural scene. Cast and crew spent countless hours over the course of several months of the latter half of 2012 constructing and painting set pieces, planning and storyboarding the camera shots, scouting locations, recording stop-motion animation, acting, filming, and finally editing a great deal of footage into the four-minute clip that appears on youtube today.

I think the video’s quality and entertainment value owe to the collaborative nature that seems to pervade our subculture. It’s obviously the work of many hands, each doing what they do best.

Faithfully presented by David Tyberg

David Tyberg portrays Prof. Dimtri von Stadberg; bass player and singer for Atlanta-based trans-dimensional rock band, The Extraordinary Contraptions. When not performing, Tyberg functions as the band’s general manager and music director.  Find out more at http://theextraordinarycontraptions.bandcamp.com

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