Many Australian composers have written works that reflect various aspects of Australia. Most have done it very successfully and are lauded for establishing a so-called ‘Australian style’ in music composition. But Heartland, an hour-long single-movement work by didgeridoo virtuoso, William Barton, and violinist, Véronique Serret, eclipses them all.

Veronique Serret and William Barton perform Heartland Véronique Serret and William Barton perform Heartlandat the Canberra International Music Festival. Photo © Peter Hislop

It is a work of deep spirit, perhaps exploring the yet unknown corners and pockets of our ancient land, or perhaps discovering a yet unknown people. It is at once distant, spacious, and expansive. It evokes Australia’s vastness, its mystery and wonder, its dryness and heat. In it, one can hear echoes across mountainous canyons and desert swales. There are the sounds of wind, fire, rain, animals and birds.

Above all, Heartlandleaves the listener in no doubt whatever about the connection First Nations people have to this land – their heartland. It took this writer back to an experience some years ago with an Indigenous elder who...