ANTARCTICA GUITAR SUITE
(duration ~ 22:00)
guitar and piano reduction

To purchase the score and parts for this work, please see the print music catalogues

Program note –
This work is an adaptation of the concerto Antarctica – suite for guitar and orchestra.
In 1991 I was invited by filmaker John Weiley to compose the score for his film Antarctica. Filmed in Imax (for cinemas fitted with a super-sized screen), it was shot over a 3 year period, and involved 20,000 kilometres of travel around the polar ice cap by helicopter, truck, boat and dog sled. It is a film about the spirit of enquiry, about looking beyond the known – past the edge of everything.
My brief was to compose music that captured the awe-inspiring grandeur, beauty, desolation and harshness of the images. I started by sketching some ideas for solo guitar and orchestra. John Williams was in Sydney at the time and I took him to the cutting room to view the rushes. He was immediately taken with the picture and we both agreed it would make a marvellous vehicle for solo guitar.
We planned to record the orchestra in Sydney and then overdub the guitar part in London, John’s hometown. Unfortunately last minute changes to the film resulted in several time constraints: I had to abandon the idea of a guitar-based score, and was unable to pursue the collaboration with John, although the fragments of guitar music still remaining in the score were performed by Timothy Kain on the films’ soundtrack.

When the Australian Broadcasting Corporation invited me to write a guitar concerto for John Williams and the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra as part of the ABC’s 60th birthday celebration a year or so after completing the film, I seized the opportunity to explore some of my original ideas for the film in the form of a suite for guitar and orchestra. The suite, as heard here, is reworked from the film score; it also incorporates ideas developed during the initial writing process but not included in the film. It is in four movements, the last comprising two sections joined by a short cadenza.
1. The Last Place on Earth
The music begins at an aerial shot of the ice cap, taken at midnight. Due to the midnight sun, it is in full daylight.
2. Wooden Ships
The first explorers came in wooden ships.
3. Penguin Ballet
Emperor penguins are seen as never before by human eyes in a kind of ballet underneath the ice cap. They leave the water at fantastic speeds through a hole in the ice to avoid being eaten by leopard seals.
4. The Ice Core / Finale
The drilling of an ice core by Antarctic scientists reveals recent changes in the earths’ atmosphere. The hole in the ozone layer was first discovered here. The Antarctic treaty was signed just as the film was being completed, providing an optimistic note on which to finish – as reflected in the finale.
Antarctica – Suite for Guitar & Orchestra was commissioned with financial assistance from the Performing Arts Board of the Australia Council.
It is dedicated to John Williams & John Weiley.