While at Casey this summer season I’ve been keeping an ear out for music in the corridors, the Music Corner, the Wallow, the general bar area of the Red Shed and even in the emergency vehicle shelter where the music and dress-up gear is stored on the mezzanine floor. Other than the small instrument we carry in our throats, we see a small variety of stringed, percussion, key board and winds instruments, much of which is owned by the AAD.
But if I were to be asked what is more important in people’s lives at Casey — language or music, I would have to say the former. I’ve just been reading through a book on this matter:
“Who Asked the First Question? The Origins of Human Choral Singing, Intelligence, Language and Speech” is a book on human evolution and the origins of human choral singing. It was written by Joseph Jordania, ethnomusicologist and evolutionary musicologist, Honorary Fellow of the University of Melbourne. The book was published in 2006 by “Logos”. The book discusses the origins of choral singing, and more broadly, the origins of music and many related issues, including origins of human intelligence, language, speech, etiology and cross-cultural prevalence of stuttering and dyslexia. As a continuation of his 2006 book, Jordania published another book in 2011, ”Why do People Sing? Music in Human Evolution” which is mostly dedicated to the role of singing in evolution of human morphology and behaviour.
But, back to Music at Casey. We get a variety of music coming from the Slushy Movement, a group of people (actually all on station) who were given the right to select the station music (transmitted through Casey’s VNJ radio) for a day — ie. 8am to 6pm. Apparently Sir Douglas Mawson decreed this 100 years ago!
So who on station is creating music, what are they playing and why?
Phil Marthick (electrician) — guitar, harmonica
Trev Crews (communications technician) — harmonica, guitar
Jeb Browne (electrician) — harmonica, Jew’s harp
Jamie Lowe (building services supervisor and plumber) — drums, guitar , keyboard
Mark Hunt (station leader) — banjo
Rhian Davies (mechanic) — harmonica
Bec Miller (scientist) — keyboard
Tim James (weather observer) — harmonica
Greg Hince (scientist) — guitar keyboard
Zbynek Malenovsky (scientist) — guitar
There are many reasons for music at Casey. The main ones are a desire to learn music notation, re-honing of lost skills and rehearsing what been learned, all for family and friends here on Station and back home. When I asked people on station about their music I received some interesting responses including the following:
“ I suppose you could say I am a musician in the RAN, having joined in 1989 as Trumpet, French Horn player and vocalist. I have performed both in defence and civilian bands at events from dinners and weddings through to major concerts and public events such as Carols by Candlelight, AFL Football matches and V8 Supercars. Highlights have been performing and touring overseas with bands in the Philippines and the USA, and singing the National Anthem prior to an international cricket test match.”
“My goals are to be able to (1) play a passable version of dueling banjos with one of the guitarists down here by the time I go home, (2) play the banjo part of Little Lion Man, (3) to play well enough that I can surround my future grandchildren with music without other people complaining about the noise and (4) maybe one day to serenade my wife, though I don’t know that the banjo was the best choice of instrument for that — maybe I need to move onto the Mandolin for that one.”
“Music has always been a big part of my family life and among my most treasured memories. I learned piano from age of 6, and double bass from 13 (classically trained). I have played bass with a range of amateur theatre companies and community orchestras that allowed to tour Europe three times. Music was a really important part of my Casey 2011–12 experience — from Carols by Candlelight on Christmas “eve”, to jam sessions in the Red Shed, the EVS and even at Robbo’s hut on field trips, I loved the way the music brought people together. Since being home from Casey, where I was inspired by the many talented and versatile guitarists on station. I have started guitar lessons, am playing more piano, and have picked up my bass again.”
“Both my parents had musical interests, Mum played a little piano, and Dad was and still is, a jazz drummer. While I was growing up, I guess I just thought it was normal to have a drum kit and a piano in the house… .but now I realise how lucky I actually was to have access to these instruments. And at school I met one of my biggest influences, my music teacher, Monty Mumford. Since then, I've been lucky enough to play with some great artists such as Geoff Achison, Dutch Tilders, Erik Culberson in the US and some fantastic local musicians in Melbourne. Nowadays, I guess my favourite genre is blues, and funk… feel good music to me is why you do it… it’s good for the soul, and why I will keep doing it as long as I can.”
“I have been playing the harp for about 15 years… don’t think I’m very good, but love to have a go. I prefer to play the blues because the 12 bar sequence is pretty easy to get your head around once you've been doing it a while, but will have a go at anything if someone is strummin’ a guitar. It’s much more enjoyable when others are playing alongside, I think.”
As well as the plethora of instruments being played on station there was no shortage of voices and we had high hopes of enrolling people in the inaugural Georgian Antarctic Choir. Names (and voices) high on the list for the choir were:
Aaron McKechnie, Jorg Metz, Lewis Firth, Beck McWatters, Bec Miller, Greg Hince, Fiona Fry, Zbynek Malenovsky
Unfortunately, because of the transience of much of the population at Casey over summer, the Casey Choir didn’t quite get off the ground as we had hoped but three events did bring us together in song, both to listen to others and to enjoy singing ourselves. The station experienced some world class polyphony through:
1. Christmas Wallow by Candle Light.
2. Polyphony Video Concert featuring Gorani, Men in Suits, Spooky Men’s Choral to name a few.
3. Karaoke Night.
Casey Station enjoys its music in all of its forms and rumour has it that with the arrival of the last wintering expeditioner on the ship this week, the wintering crew will have the delights of bagpipes to complement the rest.