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ARW

About the Music
by Rex Levang

Antarctic music? Well, there's that thing by Vaughan Williams. And then.... And that's where most music lovers will stop.

There is some, though. The Australian composer Nigel Westlake has written a suite for guitar and orchestra called Antarctica, which you'll hear at the beginning of Walking Out of History, and throughout the piece.

The most famous piece in this category is indeed the seventh symphony by Ralph Vaughan Williams, the Sinfonia Antartica. Vaughan Williams originally wrote the music as the score to the film Scott of the Antarctic, and later cast it in symphonic form. We've used it at many points in our story. (By the way, Antartica, not Antarctica, is correct for once - Vaughan Williams was a stickler about using the Italian form of the word.)

We know a little about the music actually heard on Shackleton's expedition. The men were in the habit of making up songs, sometimes ribald ones, which they accompanied with a makeshift banjo. When the crew abandoned the Endurance, they left many items behind - but not the banjo. On another occasion Shackleton and Worsley did a dance together, while a crew member whistled "The Policeman's Holiday." We've used this same tune, in a fuller arrangement, behind Leonard Hussey's recollection of sled-dog races on the ice.

The jaunty music you hear recalling the first heroic phase of polar exploration is by the uncrowned composer laureate of Victorian Britain, Sir Arthur Sullivan. At the conclusion of the adventure, when Shackleton is being welcomed by the old sea dogs, there's a bit of Parry's famous "Jerusalem." Composed in 1916, the same year that the expedition was walking back into history, it's now one of Britain's unofficial national anthems.

The voyage to Elephant Island and the descent through the waterfall are accompanied by piano music of Schumann and Sibelius; and you'll also hear moments from the works of Korngold, Gavin Bryars, and Steve Reich.

Music Used in the Radio Documentary
Nigel Westlake: Antarctica (on "From Australia," Sony SK 53361)
Vaughan Williams: Sinfonia Antartica; Toward the Unknown Region (Chandos 8796)
Montague Ewing: The Policeman's Holiday (on "Vintage Parade," Chandos 6609)
Arthur Sullivan: The Merchant of Venice (Marco Polo 8.223461)
Charles Hubert Parry: Jerusalem (on "Hymns and Things," Chandos 4529)
Robert Schumann: Papillons (Nonesuch 69264)
Jean Sibelius: Sonatina for Piano (Sony Classical 62588))
Erich Wolfgang Korngold: The Sea Hawk (RCA Victor/BMG 7890)
Gavin Bryars: The Sinking of the Titanic (Point 446 061)
Steve Reich: Three Movements (Nonesuch 79295)



All photographs by Frank Hurley unless otherwise noted