Monday, 28 May 2012

The Australian Ark - Derek Strahan (1970)

If I had to name an all-time favourite genre it would be nature documentary soundtracks - particularly if they're Australian and from the sixties or seventies. Admittedly, it's a fairly limited genre, so at this point, finding a new one (new to me, anyway) is pretty exciting. While doing a little wandering on the internet, I found the soundtrack to Shell's Australia; a thirteen part series by Robert Raymond documenting the natural history of Australia which originally aired in the early seventies. The soundtrack, titled The Australian Ark, was composed by Derek Strahan during 1969-70 and features the talents of a number of Oz jazz players including John Sangster and Derek Fairbrass. I've only been listening to it since I obtained it this morning, but from my initial impressions, it sounds really, really good. The inclusion of Sangster on percussion lends the soundtrack a very similar feel to Sangster's own soundtrack works and also the celebrated soundtracks of Sven Libaek. I don't have a rip of this album - it was never released on vinyl, although a cassette tape was released by Strahan in 1980 - but the whole thing can be purchased on CD or mp3 from CD Baby. Strahan seems to release all his music independently, so purchasing this album will directly support this Australian composer and his fine work.

If you want to hear some of the music in context, there are a couple of videos of the original documentary available at the National Film and Sound Archive's australianscreen site.


  1. This is a spectacular find! Can you watch the whole series online? The soundtrack is such a perfect blend of jazz, Chariots-of-the-Gods-style experimental guitar sounds (Subsurface pressure) and the occasional Tzadik-esque flourishes (Son of Skippy). Amazing stuff.

  2. Yeah, it really is. I was very surprised at how long it had eluded me and how good it actually is.

    And I thought exactly the same thing about the Chariots Of The Gods comparison; the occasional weirdness, the variations on the main theme (which is awesome). It's also interesting that compared to the more polished soundtrack releases, they seem to have just dumped everything they recorded onto a CD, so it's very comprehensive.

    I very much doubt that the series is online - I was amazed to find those two clips above. Although that site looks like it would be a goldmine for early Oz documentary clips an other similar ephemeral Australiana.

  3. I also really dug the thematic variations; particularly the more quasi-classical interpretations. I'm loving the vibraphones, too.

  4. Thank you so much for the information on this one - I never would have thought to search CDBaby for an obscure John Sangster project. Just placed my order for a copy today!