You are not currently logged in.

Login through your institution for access.


Log in through your institution.


Antarctica: Music, sounds and cultural connections OPEN ACCESS

Bernadette Hince
Rupert Summerson
Arnan Wiesel
Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: ANU Press
Stable URL:
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    This is the first book whose subject is the music, sounds and silences of Antarctica. From 2011 until 2014, Australia marked its long-standing connection with Antarctica by celebrating the centenary of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition. The icy continent, with its extremes of climate and environment and unique soundscapes, offers great potential for creative achievements in the world of music and sound. This book demonstrates the intellectual and creative engagement of artists, musicians, scientists and writers. Consciousness of sounds — in particular, musical ones — has not been at the forefront of our aims in polar endeavours, but listening to and appreciating them has been as important there as elsewhere.

    eISBN: 978-1-925022-29-2
    Subjects: Music, Physics, History
    × Close Overlay

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations
  1. Tom Griffiths

    In 2011, we commemorated a series of Antarctic anniversaries: the centenary of Douglas Mawson’s Australasian Antarctic Expedition, 100 years since the attainment of the South Pole, 75 years since the coming into force of the Australian Antarctic Territory and 50 years since the ratification of the Antarctic Treaty. On planet Earth today, it could be said that we inhabit the Antarctic moment. Each year now, tens of thousands of tourists visit a realm that, just a few generations ago, was virtually unknown. Over the past century we have learned just how different is the Antarctic from the Arctic, and Antarctica...

  2. Mark Pharaoh

    Douglas Mawson’sAuroraExpedition was a multi-base venture operating due south of Australia. Mawson’s prior polar experience — which led to his thoughts on Antarctic phenomena — encouraged him to counter environmental extremes with technology. To overcome the isolation of his bases, wireless telegraphy was employed from 1912, and communication with Australasia developed.

    The Morse code message below was an early ‘success’. In more senses than one, the silence of Antarctica has remained ‘broken’ ever since.

    This chapter explores the effects of sound in the Antarctic (outside and inside the winter quarters), and discusses what sound vs silence might have...

  3. Elizabeth Truswell

    Thulia: a Tale of the Antarcticis a long narrative poem written by James Croxall Palmer, assistant surgeon to the United States Exploring Expedition of 1838–42. The poem was first published in 1843, shortly after the completion of that epic and controversial voyage.

    I suggest that this represents the first poem about Antarctica as we know that continent in its essentially modern sense. Coleridge’sRime of the Ancient Marinerobviously has strong claims to priority in the poetry of the extreme southern regions, because it was first published in 1798, after, and probably inspired by, James Cook’s second voyage...

  4. Rupert Summerson

    The austral summer of 2011–12 was the centenary of many significant milestones in Antarctic history: Amundsen’s successful expedition to reach the South Pole, Scott’s tragic demise, the arrival of Mawson’s expedition in the Antarctic, and not the least is the only just remembered Japanese expedition to Antarctica under the leadership of Lieutenant Nobu Shirase.²

    The Japanese Antarctic Expedition (1910–13) was a Japanese private expedition organised by Lieutenant Nobu Shirase and funded largely by donations. Like many of the other major expeditions of the so-called Heroic Era, it was only partially funded by the government. Until very recently, little...

  5. Jeff Brownrigg

    This chapter examines the roots of the first music known to have been composed in Antarctica or as a part of voyage to that region. It traces the souring of enthusiasm for polar exploration following the disastrous Franklin Expedition to discover the Northwest Passage in 1846, as more than a score of missions set out to discover what happened to Franklin and his men. Britons (and the world) followed the emerging story of Franklin’s fate with growing incredulity and horror. The conclusions of searchers included well-supported charges of cannibalism and perhaps even murder, clear evidence of what appeared to be...

  6. Bernadette Hince

    One hundred and ten years ago, a Scot in full Highland dress walked down a gangway and onto the ice of the Weddell Sea in Antarctica. It was a most improbable sight, and the expedition’s leader captured it in photographs.

    It was the time of the heroic era of intensive Antarctic exploration, a period which began late in the 19th century and stretched some distance into the early 20th century.² During this time, the man who was to lead the piper’s expedition, William Speirs Bruce (Figure 1), made his first trip to Antarctica as a member of the Dundee Whaling...

  7. Alice Giles

    Music starts with Silence — it comes out of silence and goes back into it.

    Silence is a very tempting concept for a musician — the equivalent of a blank canvas. It is the starting point for questions and for answers, and there are indeed many questions:

    Why discuss sound and music in relation to Antarctica? Why take music there to perform? What kind of music is relevant? Who should be writing it? Even revisiting the 20th-century musical question, where does sound become music, or are they the same? Is music important? Where are the Australian compositions relating to Antarctica?...

  8. Arnan Wiesel

    Dr Cecil Thomas Madigan (Figure 1) was the meteorologist on Douglas Mawson’s Australasian Antarctic Expedition. He led the eastern sledging party, and was also leader of the group of men who stayed behind in February 1913 when Mawson’s party failed to return to their base at Commonwealth Bay in time to return to Australia on the relief ship. His expedition diaries were published in 2012.²

    The mentions of music in his diaries during Australasian Antarctic Expedition of 1911–14 show that musical activities were a vital part of daily life in the isolated and harsh environment. He mentions musical events...

  9. Christina Evans

    Body of Iceis a contemporary dance work that explores the dynamic movement and extreme nature of Antarctic ice, as well as the human connection to and impact on it. As the first dance artist ever to be awarded an Australian Antarctic Arts Fellowship, I travelled to Antarctica for several weeks in 2010 to undertake creative research to develop this work. Many facets of Antarctic ice movement were researched, explored and integrated into choreographic processes. Collaborating with renowned sound artist Philip Samartzis, a fellow Australian Antarctic Arts Fellowship recipient, theBody of Icesoundscape was born from the raw, richly...

  10. Elizabeth Leane

    In 1996, the Antarctic Treaty System officially recognised the value of creative engagements with the continent, citing ‘the contribution of writers, artists and musicians’ as a key means of ‘promotion of understanding and appreciation of the values of Antarctica’.² It is often hard to separate these different forms of imaginative response — textual, visual, aural — in the creative works that emerge from the continent. This is particularly the case in recent decades when various national programs have launched ‘artists and writers’ schemes, which send people working in diverse artistic modes to the continent. Drawn together by their similar tasks...

  11. Cheryl E Leonard

    In 2008 I was awarded a grant from the Antarctic Artists and Writers Program of the United States National Science Foundation to develop a series of musical compositions inspired by environments and ecosystems on the Antarctic Peninsula. This grant enabled me to spend five weeks at Palmer Research Station during the austral summer of 2008–09 collecting materials for my projectAntarctica: Music From the Ice.

    The project is a set of ten musical works in which Antarctic field recordings are combined with sounds produced on natural-object instruments, primarily materials from the Antarctic Peninsula. Each piece is based on an...

  12. Craig Cormick

    Titus Oates is alone on the ice tonight. The blizzard of the previous few days has blown itself out, and he can finally gather his thoughts again. The stars are shining down on him from the deep blackness above, sparkling on the ice. He likes the night sky when he can see it. So different from the perpetual whiteness that otherwise surrounds him and blinds him. When he holds his hands in front of his face he can’t see them.

    He trudges back to the tent, wondering what the others will say to him when he crawls back into the...

  13. Philip Samartzis

    We think in terms of nature as being slow. But you’re missing it all the time. It’s very very fast.

    (Eastley 2006, p. 45)

    Anyone who has taken an interest in the practice of field recording has probably noticed the extremes that artists have gone to in recent years to document difficult and remote locations. Some significant works to emerge from this burgeoning trend includeAntarctica(1998) by Douglas Quin,²Baikal Ice(2003) by Peter Cusack,³ recorded at Lake Baikal in Siberia,Arctic(2007) by Max Eastley,⁴ andWind [Patagonia](2007) by Francisco Lopez.⁵ Works such as these provide an...

  14. Patrick Shepherd

    With the substantial body of work which has been produced by artists all over the world from many artistic disciplines, critics are now in a good position to examine exactly what the artist’s relationship is with Antarctica, both from the artists’ own words and the work they have produced. Bringing the world to the continent is certainly a literal reality for those who travel to Antarctica, but the converse is also true, as each artist brings the continent back to the world. It may also be true that Antarctica is the ultimate silence, a blank canvas upon which each artist...

  15. Stephen Nicol

    In this era of heroic Antarctic centennials we are likely to be inundated with an avalanche of sepia-bound literature reinventing the myths of the cold white continent. Chief amongst these myths is the portrayal of Antarctica as a colourless, sterile environment where the only sound is the howling of the wind and the predominant biological feature is the spectre of white men, their beards infested by icicles, struggling and dying heroically on the ice. There is, however, another side to Antarctica, rich in colour, sound and smell which derives from the ring of life that surrounds the continent and which...

  16. Jesse Blackadder

    This chapter explores a different kind of Antarctic silence: the silencing of certain stories and voices. It’s the silence of the earliest female travellers to Antarctica.

    The voices of the earliest female travellers are silent and their stories remain untold, partly because there’s no place for them in the dominant Antarctic narrative of exploration and conquest. Reimagining them through fiction is one way — though with potential pitfalls — to ‘unfreeze’ those stories.

    The history of Antarctic exploration is about the adventures of men, particularly those in the so-called ‘Heroic Age’ from approximately 1897 to 1922. The great names of...

  17. Stephen Martin

    People sometimes say that when watching and listening in the great silences of Antarctica, they can hear their own heartbeat. Almost paradoxically, the great silences can be the frame for a discussion of the sounds and noises of the southern continent.

    Before delving into this topic it may be useful to put the listening experience into a broader context of human experience in Antarctica and its surrounding seas.

    When people go south they go with an extraordinary range of feelings and expectations. They come from a culture dense with meanings, understandings, symbols and relationships that are so familiar many of...

  18. Bruce Watson

    Music plays a key role in social ritual, group bonding and broader social cohesion. It is and has been so in all societies across the world and across history. This is as true in Antarctic communities as it is elsewhere, possibly more so. The way people make and share music as part of their daily lives can provide important insights into their society and characteristics.

    This chapter focuses on vernacular or community music made and played at Australia’s Antarctic bases. Very little of this music has been published, and nowhere has it been systematically studied. Some is documented in station...

  19. Rupert Summerson and Claire Beynon

    Collaboration is an exciting — and instinctual — way to work. To quote evolutionary biologist Lynn Margulis (1938–2011), ‘Among the most successful — that is, most abundant — living beings on the planet are ones that have teamed up’.³ In support of the ongoing conversation between Art and Science, we felt motivated to set up a community website that would engender discussion (initially, at least) on the relationship between music and the Antarctic environment. Our intention was to create a welcoming, easy-to-navigate site with a series of short videos featuring Antarctic landscapes overlaid with our choice of music. We...