Letter from Ernest Irving to Ralph Vaughan Williams

Letter No.: 
10th February, 1948

Dear VW

I have heard the tracks. The Antarctic Prologue with the voices comes out very well indeed, and I think we may be able to get away with the voice in the footstep scene, though, of course, we shall have to remake it later on to fit the picture. They are even now shooting the scene, but I understand that Charles Frend finds it impossible to clear a gap for the entrance of the voice. The vocal effect, however, is sufficiently disembodied to make it usable as background even behind dialogue, but we cannot decide this finally till we have made what is described as a premi, a process I hope to carry through at the end of the week. Of course the record of this is a rough one hastily made with only this purpose in view.
The same applies to the penguins, highly admired by all, of which I made a rush record for the cutter to use. As Dock1 remarks, they seem pretty big penguins, but we can safely leave that till we see the picture. Personally I like it very much even if the birds are a little aristophanic.
And finally about the Main Titles. Before I give you your next lesson there are some problems I shall have to solve for myself. In getting the horns well and truly on to the track they seem to have swallowed up the string tone altogether, and I fancy we should get more sonority by distributing the weight, and not hammering so hard upon the frequencies between 250 and 450. In addition to this the track is so loud at the horn entrance that we have no reserve power with which to climb to our climax. I understand that you aimed at heavy lourd sound from the strings, but in this case the fiddles have vanished from the panorama entirely.
With your permission I will make an alternative score of the Main Titles, and send it to you for approval. It was very lucky (for me) to have had this preliminary recording, especially if I am to justify my reputation as a private tutor and it is quite simple to do it again when we put the music on the picture. Meanwhile I am abashed.
I am sorry that owing to a domestic emergency I was unable to get to Dorking on Saturday evening2. I hope everything went well, and that you enjoyed yourself. I  enclose the ten shilling note which I intended to put in the plate. Perhaps even now you can surreptitiously insert it into the appropriate receptacle.
Yours ever

[Ernest Irving]

P.S. Todays great thought from your friend Job:

“But where shall wisdom be found, and where is the place of understanding? Seeing it is hid from the eyes of all living, and kept close from the fowls of the air”3.

1.  Dock Mathieson, brother of Muir Mathieson the Music Director of London Films
2.  A performance of St Matthew Passion.
3.  Job xxviii, vv 12 and 21.


General notes: 

Carbon copy.

Original database number: