Way Down Under

A few months late, I’m catching up on Cheryl E. Leonard’s Antarctic adventure. Leonard is a Bay Area musician who got a chance to study in Antarctica for a few weeks, and the results are chronicled in her “Music from the Ice” blog.

Unlike Henry Kaiser, who became the first musician to record in Antarctica, Leonard isn’t an oceanographer. Her specialty is in making music using natural objects as instruments — sand, rocks, water, pine cones.

Antarctica has always fascinated me — not just the land itself, but the act of actually being there, the day-to-day life that the researchers lead. Leonard’s blog satisfies both curiosities, with pictures indoors as well as out, and some detailed explanations of just what it takes to get to Antarctica and to live down there.

But the sounds are why Leonard was down there, and the blog includes lots of tantalizing snippets — penguin chatter, ice cracking, the melodious clanks of icicles falling down a crevasse. Leonard has indexed many of them on the blog’s front page, but it’s more fun to discover then inside the actual entries.

The descriptions of Antarctica itself are the highlights, but one of my favorite posts describes the ship journey back to Chile and the civilized world. Some nice pictures there, too.

Do yourself a favor and check it out. And keep an eye out for Leonard to produce some recordings from the sounds she’s collected, and/or performances with some of the new “instruments” she found.

And if you’ve got a taste for music and sound in Antarctica, check out what Kaiser’s journal, or Douglas Quin’s project from 2000.