Vulnerable Joy

Conservation Series*
Grade 4 - 5min

'Vulnerable Joy' is inspired by the self-sacrifice, commitment and humility of the mother Humpback whale. As a mammal, baleen whale, she grows to approx. 16m (52 ft) and lives at the ocean's surface in order to breath. She travels up to 6, 500km (approx. 4,000miles) from her feeding ground to birth her calf in warmer tropical waters. Once she leaves the feeding grounds of Antarctica or the cooler oceans of the Northern Hemisphere, she will not feed again until she returns some 8-9 months later. All the while, nursing her newborn calf with up to 600 litres (132 gallons) of milk per day.

TONGA_SEPTEMBER_Mother and calf.jpeg

In realising the enormity of this feat, my mind turned to the whales who are closest to me, those who migrate along the East coast of Australia from Tonga to Antarctica. I imagined the sheer relief she must feel in that moment when the cool waters of the Southern Ocean rub her skin for the first time. She is tired and hungry but in that moment (in my imagination), I feel her joy, her intense, overwhelming, vulnerable joy. For she is going to make it, she is going to survive and her calf is safe.

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mm. 1-26: Entering the Southern Ocean

Watch this informative short video on the Southern Ocean and the recent CCAMLR initiative. What does this mean to you? How does it make you feel? Notate your response in words, pictures or video blog. 

WHAT THIS MEANS TO ME: Now consider how it feels just before a final exam, or performance. All the work is done, all you need to do is stay focused and push through the final hurdle. The opening of this work draws on these feelings that the Mama whale may have as she re-enters the Southern Ocean with her calf, knowing she is almost there...


mm. 27-52: As if moving in slow motion

The imagery in this clip shows how gracefully these large creatures are able to glide through the water.

WHAT THIS MEANS TO ME: Think of your own experiences either in/on water or whilst skiing effortlessly over perfect powder snow.  Consider the colours around you, how your body feels, be conscious of your breath. Notate your response in words, pictures, paintings, dance/movement or video blog. 


mm. 53-70: Re-connection and satiation

The bubble net hunting technique is an incredible sight to behold. Imagine the relief felt (after months of solitary travel with your calf), when you arrive back in the feeding grounds and are able to pool fish with other whales and feast together. You have survived another year. You are safe.

WHAT THIS MEANS TO ME: Consider how it felt after weeks/months in isolation during the pandemic and how good it felt to be able to share a meal together again with loved ones. Picture that moment in your mind. Create a mind map of words/graphics in either grayscale or colour to document your feelings. 


mm. 71-end: The returning

The bond of the Mother whale and her calf is undeniable. Touch is an important form of communication hence, they are never far apart. At some stage during the migration from the feeding grounds to the safer warmer waters of the tropics, the calf will grow strong enough to leave its mother. From here, adolescent whales will often travel in pairs or small groups, navigating their migration journey until mature enough to reproduce. Note that the female will take between 6-10 years to reach reproduction age and they will then have one calf every 2-3 years.  The gestation period for a humpback whale is approximately 11.5 months. 

WHAT THIS MEANS TO ME: Perhaps you are preparing to change schools, move house, relocate or have even experienced another life-changing event that has caused separation from those you love. If it isn't too confronting, express your feelings about this experience in words, pictures, paintings, dance/movement or video blog. 

Learn more about Humpback Whale Migration (2min)


Play for the planet!

This work commemorates the first of a 'Conservation Series' dedicated to the conservation of our planet. Each piece will donate 10% of composer royalties earned to a specific cause linked to the subject of the work. In this case, donations will be divided equally between two important programs dedicated to preserving favourable conditions for marine life in the Southern Ocean:

1. The Humpback Whale Sentinel Program whose goal is to "advance understanding of climate-driven ecosystem shifts, and pollution issues in Antarctica, and to ... deliver high quality scientific data for the research and police community, in support of evidence-led environmental policy and decision-making."

2. The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Program whose four main gaols are to end captivity, prevent deaths in nets, create healthy seas and end all future whaling ventures.

Each work in the "Conservation Series" will be coupled with inspiration accessed through instrumental parts via a QR-coded webpage. The page will include links to research that will not only inspire emotional connection to the music itself, but to develop a more personal connection to the Earth's vulnerable flora and fauna. It is hoped that ensembles will be inspired by this information and consider hosting their own fundraising ventures for the same purpose as the work being played from the series, effectively 'playing for the planet'. 

Learn more about Humpback Whale Migration (2min)


Learn more about Humpback Whale migration

migratory routes of the humpback whale.jpeg
Humpback-Whale and calf breaching.jpeg