Amanuensis of the Sea: Peter Maxwell Davies’s Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2 and the Antarctic Symphony

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The Sea in the British Musical Imagination

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For centuries, the sea and those who sail upon it have inspired the imaginations of British musicians. Generations of British artists have viewed the ocean as a metaphor for the mutable human condition - by turns calm and reflective, tempestuous and destructive - and have been influenced as much by its physical presence as by its musical potential. But just as geographical perspectives and attitudes on seascapes have evolved over time, so too have culturalassumptions about their meaning and significance. Changes in how Britons have used the sea to travel, communicate, work, play, and go to war have all irresistibly shaped the way that maritime imagery has been conceived, represented, and disseminated in British music. By exploring the sea's significance within the complex world of British music, this book reveals a network of largely unexamined cultural tropes unique to this island nation. The essays are organised around three main themes: the Sea as Landscape, the Sea as Profession, and the Sea as Metaphor, covering an array of topics drawn from the seventeenth century to the twenty-first. Featuring studies of pieces by the likes of Purcell, Arne, Sullivan, Vaughan Williams, and Davies, as well as examinations of cultural touchstones such as the BBC, the Scottish fishing industry, and the Aldeburgh Festival, The Sea in the British Musical Imagination will be of interest to musicologists as well as scholars in history, British studies, cultural studies, and English literature.


This chapter was originally published in The Sea in the British Musical Imagination, Christopher Scheer and Eric Saylor, Editors; Boydell and Brewer, England: 2015.