The mysterious, enveloping white expanses of Antarctica have long been a source of fascination for artists of every stripe. But few have sought to replicate the experience of being in that environment in an immersive live music performance, combining field recordings and custom-built instruments to muse on the relationship between humans and the natural world.
Field work in Antarctica. Photo © Philip Samartzis
Soon to receive its world premiere in Melbourne, Speak Percussion’s Polar Forceis an intriguing feat of daring, aiming to transport audiences to the Antarctic ice shelf through a complex, multi-sensorial work. The idea for the project was first sparked by high fidelity recordings made in the Australian Antarctic Territory by Dr Philip Samartzis, a sound artist and associate professor at RMIT University. Prior to his second research trip to Antarctica in 2016, Samartzis approached Speak Percussion’s Artistic Director Eugene Ughetti about a possible project built on the results of his fieldwork. There to document the presence and effects of katabatic wind, a volatile feature of the continent that sends cold, dense air down slopes, he identified in his recordings something that lent itself to use in performance.