Steam Barry D. Truax

Steam is a homage to the unique Canadian whistles and foghorns that populate the nation’s soundscape from coast to coast. Some are actual steam whistles, but most are the air horns designed by Robert Swanson to imitate their earlier counterparts, the most famous being the E-flat minor triad of the transcontinental Canadian Pacific Railway and the O Canada horn in Vancouver. Other horns that are heard in the piece are a shift whistle in Prince Edward Island, a steam foghorn in New Brunswick, the Royal Hudson steam train, the West Coast Express, the CPR and Chemainus mill shift whistles, all from the West Coast. The rich timbres of these horns provide a set of pitches that are elaborated in the live part. The work is dedicated to the memory of Robert Swanson, one of the most significant designers of the Canadian soundscape. Steam was commissioned by Kathryn Cernauskas.

  • Year of composition: 2001
  • Genre: Soundscape
  • Format: Mixed work
  • Instrumentation: alto flute and 2 digital soundtracks
  • Software used: PODX system for sound synthesis and composition
  • Duration of the submitted work: 8:05
  • Publisher: Cambridge Street Publishing
  • Premiere: February 2002, Zurich & Lichtenstein, Feb./02; Simon Fraser University, March 15/02, performed by Kathryn Cernauskas
  • Disc publication: Steam is available on the Cambridge Street Records CD, Spirit Journies, CSR-CD 0701, performed by Chenoa Anderson (also her CD, Big Flutes), and online on Ex Machina with Lindsay Vickery, alto flute.

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