Picnic at Hanging Rock: Panpipes
Some of the most distinctive examples of Australian film music are the panpipe pieces by the Romanian folk musician Gheorghe Zamfir in Picnic at Hanging Rock. In this clip, we encounter the central theme – ‘Doïna: Lui Petru Unc’ – accompanying imagery of the rock and the schoolgirls, led by Miranda (Anne Lambert).
The delicate, ethereal and intensely ominous qualities of the music – including the meandering pipes and sustained chords of the organ – highlight the mysterious and ancient nature of the stone formation and the alluring power it has over those who come into contact with it.
As stated by director Peter Weir, the music’s pagan qualities tapped into the great unknown of the country at the time the story was set – and provided a contrast to other themes in the film, such as European notions and concepts of time, culture, cultivation and civilisation.
According to a 2013 poll by the ABC, the score for Picnic at Hanging Rock was ranked 12th in a list of the 100 best film scores of all time. It is strange that this music works so well, given its dislocation from the narrative setting – a locational setting and period far removed from Romania.