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Das Boot

Traditionally, submarines are referred to as 'boats' rather than 'ships' and the German U- boat (Unterseeboot) was originally a craft primarily designed for surface attack that also had an underwater capability, an aspect that was subsequently developed into the submarine craft that we now know. Das Boot was a 1980's TV series/film that followed the patrol of U-96 and is reckoned by many to be the best (anti) war film produced. Authenticity was achieved by filming in a full size replica with actors who were denied washing or shaving to get the right 'atmosphere' of life in a U-boat. Despite the havoc and distress caused by attacks on Allied shipping by U-boats one cannot but be saddened by the fact that out of 40,000 who went to sea in them, 30,000 never returned.

The music is characterised by a theme that has a haunting, deep, sonorous quality penetrated by the sharp, regular 'ping' of ASDIC (sonar) that was used by surface vessels to echo-locate submarines prior to attacking them with depth-charges. This 'ping' may be approximated to, at modest cost, by the percussion section using either a cymbal dome (select an appropriate beater) or a high-pitched wooden 'agogo'. Alternatively, more complex and expensive electronics may be employed. The piece needs to be played with confidence because of its discordant and intentionally sombre nature.

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