Sinfonia Antartica

Here is a post we usually re-run when the temperature drops well below zero. This first appeared here on the Hymies blog in 2006, and has been revisited at least three times since. We thought it would be fun to post it during a very hot summer day instead.


Had we lived I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance and courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every Englishman. These rough notes and our dead bodies must tell the tale.

–Robert Falcon Scott

sinfonia antartica

Today’s record is fitting for the remarkably cold weather in the Twin Cities this week. Irene the shop dog had to stay home today, since it was (according to the bank sign here on East Lake) twenty-one degrees below zero. While at home we discovered that bubbles freeze at this temperature, and that throwing a pot of boiling water into the cold air is super cool.

And we listened to some awesome records. One of them was this recording of Ralph Vaughn Williams’ Sinfonia Antartica, a 1952 work that started as the score to a film about Robert Falcon Scott’s disastrous 1911 expedition to the South Pole.

Early performances included recitations from the Book of Psalms, Shelly’s Prometheus Unbound, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Scott’s journal, discovered by a search party a year after his death during a second expedition.

Williams composed for the distant Antartic continent the same way Holst approached the unfathomable planets in the sky — combining mythology, mystery and magic. His work eschews the controversy that historians have since given the expedition, capturing instead the heroic Scott celebrated throughout England at the time.

It’s also a fine soundtrack for an extreme-cold walk, say ten blocks, to a record shop and back. Irene would agree. We hope, however, that you can enjoy this music in the warm comfort of your home.

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