This page is for your musical questions, comments and feedback about the pieces and the performances.

Visit the About page for information on the music Alice is taking with her.

21 responses to “Musical

  • Chris Clarke


    This seems to be the first ‘musical’ comment!

    All aspects of what you are doing are very exciting, but I am specially interested in what is going in, and coming out musically.

    I mentioned that I had a CD of music for Antartica, I I tracked it down. It is a CD in the ABC series confusingly titled ‘Antarctic Symphony’, though it is not the composed symphony of that name. It is a compilation of remarkable recorded sounds from Antarctica interspersed with short recorded classical pieces, but an unusual and attractive work. I was planning to use some of the ‘unearthly’ recorded sounds as background to a radio production of the epic of Gilgamesh. A web reference to the CD follows.

    I was struck particularly by the astonishing variety and strangemess of the sounds. Given your ability to get unusual sounds out of the harp, and the harp’s versatility of expression in the low range, I think sending you there so equipped is an inspired choice! I look forward with great anticipation to the results.

    If you are unfortunate enough to suffer seasickness, that might also inspire a very interesting piece of music, or manner of playing!


    • alicegiles

      Hi Chris, Unfortunately I can’t access internet on the ship to follow up your musical reference, though it sounds interesting for when I return. Let me know if there is any sound you particularly would be interested in my recording. I have some good quality equipment, and I am looking forward to the sound of the ship crunching through the ice at Mawson. cheers, Alice

  • dianarowan

    Hi Alice, have you done any performances yet? How are the harps holding up? Are you inspired to do any composing?

    • alicegiles

      Hi Diana,
      I am just a few days out to sea and have started to practice on my little 23 string harp. The Camac Blue is in a trunk in the heli-hangar, tied down so tightly no one will open it for me until we hit quiet Antarctic waters. We’ve started a 3meter swell today, so practice made me a bit funny in the head. Will need to take it in small doses I think. I will play some things on the little harp on board (a piece by Mary Doumany called ‘Ice’ and some songs from my grandfather’s time – The Good Rhein Wine, A’Roving), but mostly I am waiting to get to land and Mawson Base for the concert on the blue harp. I am not sure about composing – it may come but it is more likely that if I am feeling creative I might draw or write poetry. The ship is small and at the moment I feel surrounded by new people. Since they are all very interesting and very nice I find this stimulating and fun, but not peaceful enough for creation. I worry about the shuddering waves, where the ship lands unevenly down on a wave and everything shudders for a bit and I imagine my big harp in its trunk in the cold hangar without being able to check up on it…love, Alice

  • Sarah Deere-Jones

    Hi Alice, what a fantastic project! please make some recordings of Aeolian (wind blown) music as the wind blows through the harp strings, although I guess it may not be too good for the harps at those temperatures! Hang on to those harps – I played on board QE2 for 8 years and had some worrying moments at sea – used to tie my harps up to railings in a storm! Good luck & Best wishes from Cornwall UK.

  • Chris Clarke


    Ships breaking ice was indeed one of the unguessably strange and interesting sounds, another was ice hinges creaking. There was also the karabatic wind – perhaps for something with flute! There were bird and animal sounds, but also human sounds including footsteps approaching through snow, and helicopter radio traffic, and ships engine noise.

    You may also have linked to work by Valmar Kurol, a Canadian who recently compiled and commented on all the musical and artistic references he could find on Antartica. The following is a lead-in to that project.

    I was put onto it by Bruce Watson who will be at the Conference in June. Cheers, Chris

  • Mary Doumany

    Hi Alice!

    Am thrilled to bits that you’ve played
    “Ice” on board the ship. In your honour,
    I’m performing it at a concert today,
    in Vicotria.
    How do you manage to move your fingers,
    it must be SO cold….



    • alicegiles

      Hi Mary – so far I have only played inside with the nice view all outside! It will depend very much on the wind whether I can do anything outside once we get to land. If it’s still I should be OK for some minutes at least, otherwise you get frost bite fairly quickly – they’ve given us a table to calculate temperature/wind chill/length of time until frost bite! Nice to think you were playing ice at the same time – it’s been a great success here. Alice

  • Mike Round

    Hi Alice!
    What an adventure! I’ve sailed a couple of days south of 40 degrees and while there were plenty of albatrosses I spotted no ice until I got back to land and put some ceremoniously in my beer. Now about the music!
    I would love to see a photo of you playing on the blue harp some soothing egg-incubating tunes of your own composition to a large gathering of emporer penguins! I’m sure they would be most favourably impressed.
    best wishes and love from Michael

    • alicegiles

      Thanks Michael – played to the elephant seals today, and video will go up soon – they make a lot of very inelegant noises and are extremely smelly, and I don’t think they took much notice of my playing. I thought the two Adelie penguins I played for were listening though. I am wondering if I will be brave enough to go up a bit closer tomorrow if I have time. My cabin-mate Zina got a great photo of two emperor penguins from the ice floes a couple of days ago but I have only seen Adelies so far. Alice

  • Jenny

    Hi! Once more all my good wishes, continue to enjoy yourself! If you can bring all the sounds recordings it will be marvellous! We are all thrilled by your trip.
    Love, Jenny

  • Andrew Thom

    Good one Alice –

    the ABC interview went well – Adaryn sounded pure.

    Suggestions for her meeting with Aeolus –

    Place the microphone inside the soundbox, about a third of the way up. This will ensure the best acoustic pick-up. Block the soundholes with socks or whatever comes to hand – this will eliminate the (probably) unwanted buffeting of wind around & through the holes. She shall sing sweetly.

    Happy ice-harpery –


    • alicegiles

      Hi Andrew – Thanks so much for the very helpful hint. This will no doubt work better than my field mic with fluffy thing on. I will experiment anyway – I may not need the socks (except on my feet) if I use the fluffy thing inside the harp. Wish I’d thought of such an obvious solution at Davis! Alice

  • Saul Davis

    Dear Alice:
    I am enjoying your wonderful harp and piano cd with your gifted husband. I don’t know or haven’t heard most of the pieces, so it is a treat. The balance between harp and piano is very good.

    Are there any pieces in your repertoire that you think you might interpret differently based on your Antarctic experience? The harp is very good at icy, snowflakey sounds, even slushy collisions of ice floes.

  • Mary Doumany

    Alice, the sounds of the ice breaking, stir up something primordial.
    On a soul level, its like the noise of simultaneous crashing and caressing….

    It may inspire a piece…

  • Jenny

    Dear Alice, day by day I look at your new adventures, most fascinating! And the way you describe…True you should be a writer too! – Violeta is thrilled as well and would love to use all the sounds in her Concerto which will definetely be with full orchestra (and tape) and ready for 2012 to be 1st performed. Keep well, till later, lots of love, Jenny

  • Knowles Kerry

    Dear Alice, I was lucky enough to catch the last part of an interview with you on the ABC this morning 4 March 3.30am MBT as I recall. Congratulations on a great interview and even more so for having arrived at Mawson. I am so pleased to hear a musician performing in Antarctica and responding to the wonderful environment. The harp seems exactly the right instrument. Many years ago I put a proposal to the Antarctic Division executive to take musicians and particularly composers to Antarctica to interact with the soundscape there(I had Mawson in mind). The idea was dismissed because it would have no possible benefit to the Australian Government. Thank god attitudes have changed and there is a formal program for artists to visit. No doubt you will be sent back to the ship the moment the wind drops but if you get a chance, walk over to West Arm after the katabatic drops and listen to the sounds of the glaciers. With a bit of luck the wind will be westerly and will carry the sounds of the glaciers to you and those of the generators and other station noise in the opposite direction.

    I am looking forward to hearing a recording of your Antarctic performances particularly those recorded out doors. Best wishes for the remainder of your stay at Mawson and for the journey home.

    • alicegiles

      Hi Kerry, I am hoping that my adventure will encourage more composers to apply for Arts Fellowships. To really develop a feeling and response for the environment in Antarctica, it would take a proper extended period of time – at least a season or better still a whole year. A brief visit gives an impression but the nature of a round trip resupply voyage means that other considerations take precedence, and there is not enough space and time for reflection for a composer. I feel strongly that the abstract nature of music is a very important way to inspire and enhance communication about Antarctica: more integration of the natural sounds but also the emotional response in a human interpretative way need to be part of the Australian response to this vast and powerful continent. No wonder Antarctica is peripheral to most people’s understanding – the visual images and the stories have been there for the last century, but only such a tiny amount of music to convey these into their hearts and souls.

  • Linda McCullough

    Hallo Alice you and the blue harp look sensational out there on the ice, look forward to hearing what inspires you through your music… stay safe and have lot of fun… :-))

    • alicegiles

      Hi Linda, The amazing thing is the range of different blues there. Especially when there is some sunlight, the ice has a really intense cake icing-blue shade. I heard that the incredible blue ice cave in the crevasse that we saw on the helicopter ride from Davis has now collapsed (the pilot was so excited by it he went back for another look) as the glacier fell into the sea. So things change every minute – no wonder people want to go back time and again.

  • jesse

    Hello Alice, I’ve just found out that you’re playing in Byron Bay this weekend – and tragically I won’t be there to hear you, as I’m going to a conference in Canberra. As a runner up AAD arts fellow I’ve been reading bits and pieces of your blog with great interest and am looking forward to meeting you at the Antarctica conference in June (I’m giving a paper). I wish you all the best for your show on Sunday here in Byron. If you’re still around on Monday and have the time/inclination for a brief coffee, I’d love to meet you. Best wishes Jesse Blackadder (doctoral candidate, UWS)

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