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Once upon a time : An ironic melodrama about a nuclear family

by Richard Vella (1985, this version: 1986)

Score Sample

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Audio Sample

Performance by Pipeline from the CD Selected Works by AMC Represented Artists, vol. 146.

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Selected Works by AMC Represented Artists, vol. 146.


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Selected Works by AMC Represented Artists, vol. 146.

Library shelf no. CD 3263 [Available for loan]

Display all products featuring this work (2 more)  

Work Overview

Once upon a time... is a series of short instrumental works. Each work is introduced by a speaker. The work is an ironic melodrama parodying the children's story book genre such as the John and Betty series in which the image augments the text. The original version included Fairlight computer playback. However, this was later removed with the Fairlight playback part arranged for the other chamber instruments.

Its music vocabulary relies on standard clich├ęs and patterns found in the silent movie melodrama form and simple tonal music progressions.

These vocabularies are: diminished seventh chord tremoli; the cycle of fifths; V-I Cadences; arpeggios; 19th century piano parlour music and forms in the style of Franz Schubert; gestures such as glissandi, snare drum rolls; emulating amateur performances through the use of written out mistakes, rhythmically incorrect passages, tempo shifts, etc.

Work Details

Year: 1985, this version: 1986

Instrumentation: Flute doubling piccolo and alto flute,oboe doubling English horn, trombone, percussion (triangle, snare drum, bass drum, friction drum), xylophone, piano, speaker. (If a speaker is not available, the spoken parts can be spoken by the musicians)

Duration: 21 min.

Difficulty: Advanced — Many movements are relalively easy. Only a few are more advanced.

Dedication note: Dedicated to Gerard Stewart.

Commission note: Originally commissioned in 1986 by the One Extra Dance Company, Sydney.

The composer notes the following in relation to this work: An ironic music theatre work for concert performance with a postmodern aesthetic.

Performances of this work

2 May 09: featuring Sydney Soloists, Christina Leonard.

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