Sound and music

Lone expeditioner on ice field, Law Dome
Wandering on ice field, Law Dome (Photo: Grant Dixon)

Students can explore both Antarctica's complete silence and natural sounds, and the effects the experience has had on various artists and expeditioners.

One night when we camped outside Mawson we decided to be intrepid Antarctic explorers for a night: we wouldn't sleep in the hut but pitch a tent and experience a night in the real Antarctic wilderness… [but] it was all terribly crammed and you weren't ready to go to sleep anyway, and everyone was farting and being noisy. So I thought "this is not Antarctica at all" and said I was going for a walk. I got out of my sleeping bag and went outside. It was still light of course and whiskey in hand I started to walk as far as I could across the ice to experience the Antarctic silence which they'd all told me was what it was all about. So I walked and walked and the tent became tinier and tinier on the horizon. And then I stopped and stood still. And I remember this swishing sound, like soft whips cracking all around me - it was the ice moving. It was a strange sound and a wonderful feeling of being out there listening to the Antarctic silence, looking around and feeling totally alone…

- Melbourne artist Jan Sensbergs

  • Emphasise how striking the silence of Antarctica is. Have the students read some expeditioner profiles to see how often silence in Antarctica (or noise back in Australia) is mentioned. Why is the difference so marked?
  • Place groups of students at different locations in the school environment, have them sit in silence, and record all the sounds they hear in a 10 minute period. It is more effective to have students close their eyes in order to heighten the sense of hearing.
  • Students can create Antarctic music using voice, electronic keyboards and percussion instruments, and then choreograph a dance/movement performance to accompany this music (or alternatively to a recording of 'Antarctica' by Van Gelis, 'Antarctica' by Nigel Westlake, or 'Sinfonia Antarctica' by Vaughan Williams). They could also create costumes and props, and perform the work at school assembly.
  • Listen to a collection of sounds which can be heard around Antarctica, including underwater calls of Weddell seals, a Weddell seal yawn, and an Adélie penguin squabble.
This page was last modified on January 23, 2014.