You naturally assume that Sir David Attenborough spends all his time seeking out new and interesting species of animal, bird and insect life. And indeed he does. But through many of his years as a documentary maker of the natural world, he’s also been a collector of indigenous music. On Christmas day on Radio 3, Sir David will be taking us through his extraordinary musical journey.
I studied a bit of World Music and anthropology at university and was fascinated by old recordings of people singing their communities’ traditional songs. What intrigued me was the way that the music of a place could tell you all sorts of things about how that people or settlement developed and was influenced. Sir David has been all over the planet and I am simply enthralled at the idea that he recorded tunes from everywhere he went. It could be a total dream of a record of captured performances.
The BBC website describes it as:
From Gamelan orchestras in Bali; Fijian chants to attract turtles from the depths of the ocean; Aboriginal didgeridoo recitals; even the singing that encouraged boys to bungee jump with only vines attached to their ankles, Attenborough tells the stories of his World Music recordings that have lain in the BBC’s vaults for nearly 60 years.
Sir David embarked on a postgraduate degree in Social Anthropology, inspired by the musical expressions of the people he met while filming. But he was never able to complete it as he was put in charge of the new BBC Two channel (I never knew that). When he returned to programme-making in the 1970’s many of the isolated communities had been opened up to outside influences and so his earlier recordings have become a unique archive.
There are some clips of the programme available on the BBC website here. Along with some great artwork and a helpful overview. So steal yourself away somewhere quiet, when everyone else is sleeping off the turkey. And tune in to Radio 3 this Christmas day.