Fri
Oct 22 2010 11:19am

The Amazing Fantastic Steampunk Timeline of Music and Things

Steampunk musicSteampunk music is built on the idea that the themes, imagery, and aesthetics of the steampunk genre can be translated into musical form. Like its literary parent, it explores the path not taken, and wonders what might have been had the sounds and styles of Victorian and Edwardian eras not given way to modern rock and club music. Steampunk music feels timeless and vintage, but it is not against theadvantages of modern technology. Steampunk musicians often enjoy using synthesizers and computers to blend and remix vintage sounds and instruments in ways that musicians a hundred years ago might have done had they enjoyed the benefits of our technology. In essence, steampunk music combines the taste and style of the 19th century with all the advantages possessed by modern musicians, creating a form of music that those living in the 19th century could have understood, even if they could not have created it themselves. It is music that would have been enjoyed in the dance halls of the 1890s, if they possessed the ability to rapidly exchange and combine forms of music from around that world that we have today thanks to the internet.

Steampunk Music Time Line

1877: Invention of the phonograph
In his laboratories at Menlo Park, New Jersey, Thomas Alva Edison perfects a system of sound recording and transmission. The first recording replayed is a voice saying “Mary had a little lamb, its fleece was white as snow.”

2003: Steampunk music begins with Vernian Process
Joshua Pfeiffer founds the Steampunk music movement with the creationof his music project, Vernian Process, which takes its name from Jules Verne. Vernian Process establishes steampunk music as a style that builds around the themes of Victorian scientific romances and their 20th century equivalent, steampunk.

2003: Steampunk fashion is made public by Kit Stolen
On August 20th, 2003, Kit Stolen makes images of his steampunk clothing and hair fall designs available to the public on a LiveJournal steampunk group. He had already been wearing this clothing on a daily basis since 2001. The images go viral and help demonstrate that steampunk can be produced in fashion as well as in literature.

2004: First steampunk album
The first album of steampunk music, titled Discovery, is released by Vernian Process for free on the internet.

2005: Girl Genius goes online
On April 18th, 2005, Girl Genius, Kaja and Phil Foglio’s comic, which had been published on paper since 2001, is launched as a webcomic, further fueling an interest in steampunk literature.

2005: First steampunk club event
On June 19th, 2005, the Malediction Society begins the first steampunk music dance club event. The event is still active today, and is organized and run by the promoter DJ XIAN in Los Angeles, California.
Victor Junior Gramophone steampunk music

2005: Unextraordinary Gentlemen
The steampunk band the Unextraordinary Gentlemen is formed bybassist/keyboardist Richard Pilawski and vocalist/lyricist EricSchreeck. They are later joined by violinist Jennifer Pomerantz.

2006: First steampunk convention
Saloncon, the first ever Neo-Victorian/steampunk convention, is founded by Deborah Castellano. The event features steampunk musicians, performers, and vendors.

2006: Brass Goggles
The first steampunk-only blog, Brass Goggles, is launched.

2006: Abney Park
On June 13th, 2006, the band Abney Park transforms itself from a goth/industrial band into a steampunk band. This encompasses a complete cosmetic makeover for them in terms of clothing and presentation. Abney Park develops an elaborate backstory that describes them as being “steampunk pirates,” which initiates the “steampunk sky pirate” trend.

2007: Sepiachord.com
Sepiachord.com is founded by Jordan Bodewell, giving a more permanent home to the online project started on MySpace and LiveJournal on October 15th, 2006. Sepiachord.com is an attempt to provide a central location for the public to listen to steampunk music and musicians.The site functions almost as an online magazine and catalog, with daily listings of new music, bands and performances.

2007: The Time Travel Picnic
On August 4th, 2007, the first annual Time Travel Picnic is held in Tuxedo, New York, by Evelyn Kriete and G. D. Falksen. It is the first steampunk meet-up in the world, and has continued to meet annually every year since.

2007: White Mischief
White Mischief is founded by the band Tough Love. It holds neo-vintage/steampunk events and parties around London, each with a theme based on the title of a book by Jules Verne.

2007: Mainspring
The steampunk novel Mainspring, by author Jay Lake, is published. It helps bring a resurgence to the steampunk literary genre.

2007: Neo-Victorian Nightmare music festival
The first steampunk music festival, the Neo-Victorian Nightmare, is run in Canada by the fashion company To Die For Designs. The event features musicians such as Abney Park, Johnny Hollow, and DJ XIAN.
Edison phonograph steampunk music2008: Gilded Age Records
On March 26th, 2008, Gilded Age Records, the first steampunk music label, is founded by Joshua Pfeiffer and Evelyn Kriete. The label initially represents Vernian Process and The Clockwork Dolls. Today, there are fourty-eight 19th-century bands and solo artists from around the world on the label.

2008: The Clockwork Cabaret
In January 2008, the first all-steampunk radio show, The Clockwork Cabaret, is created by the Davenport sisters, who also host it. The program is initially aired on Tuesday nights from 12 AM to 2 AM on WCOM Community Radio in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

2008: Steampunk Magazine
In March 2008, the first issue of Steampunk Magazine becomes available for free online. It is the first fanzine devoted to the steampunk subculture.

2008: The New York Times covers steampunk
On May 8th, 2008, The New York Times runs a feature article by Ruth LaFerla entitled “Steampunk Moves Between Two Worlds.” The article features coverage of the fashion and music of the growing steampunk trend.

2008: Steampunk on MTV
On September 29th, 2008, MTV airs a nine-minute news piece on the steampunk subculture. The piece covers events such as Saloncon, topics like steampunk fashion and music, and steampunk bands.

2008: Molly Friedrich
Artist Molly “Porkshanks” Friedrich creates a custom violin called “Nathan’s Amberic Array Violin” for Nathaniel Johnstone [of Abney Park?]. Photographs of the violin and a number of other “steampunked” instruments by Molly Friedrich go viral on the internet, and are immediately copied by the public.

2008: Euchronia
Euchronia, the first major steampunk music event in Australia, takes place. It is a steampunk/Neo-Victorian Year’s End ball held in Melbourne, Victoria, although it would not be repeated until 2010. It features bands such as The Tenth Stage and Sforzando.

2008: Steampunk music in the Guardian
In October 2008, British newspaper the Guardian features an article titled “Tonight I’m gonna party like it’s 1899,” which covers the growing steampunk club and music scene in the U.K. It covers a range of British steampunk music festivals and events, including London-based White Mischief.

2008: Eccentrik Festival
The Eccentrik Festival in Raleigh, North Carolina, is held. It headlines only steampunk and neo-vintage bands, such as the Hellblinki Sextet, Nicki Jaine, Jill Tracy, the Unextraordinary Gentlemen, and Vernian Process.

2008: Cup of Brown Joy
On June 5th, 2008, the steampunk rap video “Cup of Brown Joy” by Brighton-based hip hop artist MC Elemental goes viral on the internet. The song discusses the artist’s love of tea and incorporates Victorian imagery.

2008: Steampunk anthology
Tachyon Publications publishes an anthology of steampunk fiction, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer.

2008: AIR
AIR: Aerial Steampunk RPG, the first steampunk MMORPG, goes into development by Hatboy Studios, Inc.

2009: Steampunk Tales
Steampunk Tales goes live. It is the world’s first electronic pulp fiction and steampunk magazine, as well the first iPhone app designed to be a fiction magazine.

2009: DragonCon Alternative History Track
The steampunk-themed Alternative History Track begins its first year at DragonCon, a major convention based in Atlanta, Georgia. The track features numerous steampunk panels and events, including a Time Travelers’ Ball, which is attended by over seven thousand guests and which includes music by steampunk bands.

2009: First steampunk museum exhibition
In October 2009, the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford holds an exhibition of steampunk art, the first of its kind. The event is curated by Art Donovan.

2009: The Way Station
In October 2009, The Way Station opens in Brooklyn, New York. It is the world’s first steampunk bar and music venue. That same month, The Way Station hosts Tor.com’s Steampunk Month party, featuring performers such as Psyche Corporation, author G.D. Falksen and singer Karen LeBlane.

2009: Time magazine
On December 14th, 2009, Time magazine covers steampunk in an article by Lev Grossman titled “Steampunk: Reclaiming Tech for the Masses.” The article covers steampunk as a growing music, fashion, literary, and art trend.

2010: Sunday Driver
U.K.-based steampunk band Sunday Driver debuts. It is the first band to actively explore multicultural steampunk music and use non-European sounds and instruments as a standard part of its performance.

2010: Sugarland
In April 2010, the platinum-selling country rock duo Sugarland announces that their new music direction will be steampunk influenced, beginning with their new album The Incredible Machine.

July 2010: Rush
The band Rush goes steampunk for their “Time Machine Tour” in support of their forthcoming album Clockwork Angels, including a stage set, costume, and instruments, all within the steampunk aesthetic. It costs millions, but looks fantastic.

Steampunk music timelineAt this point, there are steampunk music events occurring at nightclubs and in music halls every month somewhere in the world. There are constantly new steampunk and neo-vintage bands forming or converting over to a steampunk theme as this genre of music grows.


Having completed this timeline, and knowing that she was there for all of the events—and, in many cases, helped them come about—Evelyn Kriete now feels very old. More info about her can be found on her Twitter feed and Facebook page.

21 comments
Metadadaist
1. Metadadaist
Notable ommissions include Ghost Fire who's singer was made an honorary member of the Victorian Steampunk society at the Asylum in 2009. Also Trousseaux (now disfunct) who played at the Asylum 2009 and many Steampunk shows in Brighton, possibly the first and only Steampunk band to feature a harpist.
Metadadaist
2. Anna the Rat
Feels like the lifestyle segment of Stephen Hunt's far more detailed timeline on Tor.com being fleshed out from a wholly U.S.-centric perspective.

Interesting, but incomplete.
Jason Henninger
3. jasonhenninger
I can appreciate how difficult it would be to create a comprehensive list of steampunk music, given that it's not the easiest thing to define. I'd like to suggest a few additions to your list.

The oldest thing I'd add: Les Oiseax dans la charmille, an aria from Offenbach's Les Contes d'Hoffmann, which is sung by a clockwork soprano. (And I think Hoffmann himself was proto-steampunk).

Early Pink Floyd (Syd Barret days) and the Beatles (Sgt. Pepper) I think both qualify. I would definitely add Thomas Dolby and Rasputina to the list. And a whole bunch of Tom Waits songs. Also Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire, especially Thrills.

Nice to see Malediction Society get mentioned. And Nicki Jaine. I have a soft spot for her since she played "Happy Birthday To You" for my sister, on a musical saw. How cool is that?
Jason Henninger
3. jasonhenninger
I can appreciate how difficult it would be to create a comprehensive list of steampunk music, given that it's not the easiest thing to define. I'd like to suggest a few additions to your list.

The oldest thing I'd add: Les Oiseax dans la charmille, an aria from Offenbach's Les Contes d'Hoffmann, which is sung by a clockwork soprano. (And I think Hoffmann himself was proto-steampunk).

Early Pink Floyd (Syd Barret days) and the Beatles (Sgt. Pepper) I think both qualify. I would definitely add Thomas Dolby and Rasputina to the list. And a whole bunch of Tom Waits songs. Also Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire, especially Thrills.

Nice to see Malediction Society get mentioned. And Nicki Jaine. I have a soft spot for her since she played "Happy Birthday To You" for my sister, on a musical saw. How cool is that?
Jason Henninger
4. jasonhenninger
sorry for the double post. Not sure how that happened.
Metadadaist
5. Tobias Slater
Wow! What an amazing comprehensive resource. Thank you so much.

This is the point where lots of other people will start to mention steampunk bands...I think there are a few others in the UK worth mentioning ( in addition to Ghostfire and Trousseau)

The Clockwork Quartet
The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing
Jarmean?

Anyone interested in steampunk in the UK should check out our site White Mischief - we're doing steampunk events in London and Brighton throughout 2010 and 2011. We're also actively looking for steampunk artists, makers and musicians - so if that's you, please email me.
Metadadaist
6. Tobias Slater
I tried to post a message but it got sent for moderation! Please check it. Anyway thanks for a splendid article.
Metadadaist
7. Tobias Slater
I tried to post a message but it got sent for moderation! Please check it. Anyway thanks for a splendid article.
Metadadaist
8. Bellatrix
Wow, it would be awesome to stage that act of Hoffmanwith steampunk imagry, great idea, Jason!

However, I have to disagree that Offenbach (Hoffman is the character not the composer, though he did write the stories the operetta is based on) is proto-steampunk. Victorians and Victorian music cannot be steampunk because this was the actual music of their time and the people of the era. This was reality for them.

I have a problem with including the phonograph, and then skipping 100 years of music history. Once again, the phonograph is not steampunk, it is the technology of its time.

Steampunk, as I understand it, is supposed to ret-con history and re-imagine technology tapping actualy historical reality as "steampunk" doesn't quite do it for me.
Metadadaist
9. Jon Magnificent
It's a good start, but definitely a work in progress.
I do enjoy the tip o' the hat to Vernian Process.

And to get all Steampunk on ya, I would dare say that since there is time-travel involved, it would be very, very difficult to delineate an accurate time line. Many of us have been doing steampunk and music before we knew there was a term for what we were doing. Much of my own recent album (the recently award Rock Album of the Year - 20th Annual LA Music Awards) was composed in late 80s and early 90s. And one of those ("BABY!" written in 1993) was even on the Grammy Ballot last year (2009) for Best Rock Song (there are no Steampunk Award Categories yet at either of those two institutions). And lest it be misunderstood that I am saying rock music is steampunk, you may dispel that notion. I was also awarded Orchestral Composer of the Year in 2008 at the LA Music Awards for a mere demo submission of the title track of my now award-winning album.

It is the Victorian-era orchestration, much influenced by Wagner and his idol, Beethoven that gives this composer his steam - as well as an obsession for building mad-science gadgetry.

And to add an almost interesting, but inapplicably related datum to my impromptu bio here, I also share a birthday with H.G. Wells and notable guitarist Randy Rhoads. Dec 6th. Rock and Science Fiction. Cheers!
Metadadaist
10. VernianProcess
Although I was the first to openly and outright refer to my project as Steampunk, I think the first Steampunk musicians (even though they didn't refer to themselves as such) would have to be people like Klaatu with their song, Sub-Rosa Subway in the 70's (about the first NY Subway line in the mid-19th Century). Also stuff by Alan Parsons, Jeff Wayne, Kate Bush, Tom Waits, Paul Roland, and many others in the 70's and 80's fit the whole style of Steampunk perfectly.

But thank you very much for dropping a mention of our project. if I have time when I get home, I can start making a more expansive timeline of the pre-Steampunk subculture, Steampunk music.
Kristin Franseen
11. musichistorygeek
What about The Men That Will Not Be Blamed for Nothing, who released their first album (Now That's What I Call Steampunk, Vol. 1) on wax cylinder?
Kenneth Sutton
12. kenneth
Since June 2009, Radio Riel (an internet radio station) has had a Steampunk stream 24/7, playing Steamwave, Goth, Electronica, Alternative, Industrial, Dark Cabaret, Mechanical Music and some Classical and Baroque at http://steampunk.radioriel.org
Metadadaist
13. professor elemental
Thanks very much for including my humble little number. I';m sure you could go on forever adding things to the timeline and there will always be someone missed out. That said, the men who will not be blamed for nothing truly are the best bits of steampunk. Particularly the punk bits.
Incedently, I've just completed the first ever steampunk hip hop album, do pop by and check it out at www.professorelemental.com
The timeline continues.....

lots of love

prof
Metadadaist
16. Deborah Castellano
Wow, thanks for including SalonCon :) It's an amazing timeline and hard to believe we've gotten so far so fast! Kudos to you, Evelyn!
Metadadaist
17. Kolgar Ra'Sabbath
Some call it a timeline, others as Evelyn's client list.
Metadadaist
18. Doctor Q
What Vernian Process said in the comments goes double for me. Much better put than I would have done. As a DJ and a panelist discussing steampunk music, the genre encompasses many musical genres and goes back well into the early days experimental rock. I have used blues, rock, bluegrass, new wave, and other world music genres at the events I spin at and I think all would qualify as steampunk easily.
Metadadaist
19. DJ Th'Elf
Morning. A noble and noteable effort. Excellently done.
I would definitely agree with Vernian Process' comment, however, though with the addition that it wasn't CALLED steampunk music at that time... that label was added later, however, it WAS definitely music that fit the genre.

Also, a slight correction:
2007: Neo-Victorian Nightmare music festival
Though DJ Xian was advertised to show, she was unable to make the trip. It was actually DJed by myself, Th'Elf [who was also on the bill].
Metadadaist
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Metadadaist
21. Joseph C.R. Vourteque
Well how lovely to see my comment deleted/blocked - but then again should I be surprised?
Metadadaist
27. Ydnic from DragonCon
Much love to VernianProcess for mentioning the Klaatu song. I played it at Dragon*Con during the first year of the Alternate History Track, in fact. :)

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