A polar adventure in 6 movements, played continuously. 1. Droplets 2. The Glacier 3. Seascape 4. The Bears 5. The Blizzard 6. Desolation.
A Polar Journey. Pictures, events, storyline.
3(1P), 3(1CA), 3(1 BCl), 2+C. 188.8.131.52. 1T + 4P.
Despite initial intentions, there soon appeared very definite pictures in my head to portray in this piece, so that in the end it’s practically a journey. Both the Arctic and Antarctic are represented under the heading of Polar, simply because the scenes shown don’t exist in both places (e.g. penguins and polar bears, the bears live north, the penguins south).
We open on a bare frozen wasteland, sounds emerge from the scene only slowly, as the picture thaws. Various pre-borrowed motifs from the rest of the piece are heard, the ‘home’ key of F minor is hinted at.
We come to a glacier, vast, stretching out below us. Wide, sweeping music, majestic, started by the brass but mostly concerning the strings. An Arctic fox nips across the snow below.
Suddenly we reach a busy sea, vibrant, with leopard seals twisting and zooming through the water and white whales and giant squid in the depths. The seascape becomes brighter, shafts of sunlight in the water reflect technicolour shoals of glittering fish – rather a more tropical scene than polar – and the sea swarms with marine life. Finally the waters calm and darken, and we see an ice floe on which stand a family of four polar bears.
This is the most graphic section of the piece. As the ice floes are melting and shrinking, the family, represented by the horn section, swim to a smaller floe. Only three of them make it, and the water surrounding them becomes more dangerous, threatening both them and the floes. Only two survive the increasingly breathless paddle to the next patch of ice, the water is swirling and angry now, and finally only one bear is left on a solitary floe. The dark sea overtakes and consumes both with terrifying chords.
The sea and climate have won, and settle to heaving, brooding waters. But we’re heading inland now, and creatures of the deep are heard below. The music lightens and more marine animals are heard nearer and nearer the surface.
The tide crashes gloriously onto the rocky shore, and on land we see penguins shooting out of the water and waddling inland to their colonies. As they huddle together a southern storm is on its way, snow drifting down in heavier and thicker blankets. Soon the colony is engulfed by the ferocious blizzard.
As it passes, the skies clear, yet we are still in a remote landscape, and return to the opening key, and to the desolate panorama. Snippets of earlier melodies return, forlorn bear calls are heard in the distance, the Arctic fox even makes a cheeky return, but the music is spreading out again, before a crevasse opens, and the white wilderness is all we are left with.
Dan Jenkins, January 2016.