Meditation. Reflection. The 40+ minutes of Heartland, recorded by co-composers/performers William Barton and Véronique Serret, transcend the realms of this earth. Divided into nine recognisable tracks, each is speckled with dots of improvisatory aspects which means that each time these pieces are performed, they are never one and the same, much like the ever-changing landscape that guides the music. Here, Barton and Serret are far more than just their instruments. They are storytellers, they are guides on this journey through Heartland, through the landscape, and through the traditions of first Australians who teach the importance of belonging to a place.
Heartland began as a much smaller composition commissioned for the 2019 Canberra International Music Festival, then developed into larger improvisatory performances – what made you want to record it?
Barton: Our project grew organically - our interpretation of the Australian landscape is part of something much greater, connecting people with the feeling of the heartbeat and Heartland of our mother country. Though there are improvised elements within the live show and our album, we have structured recognisable pieces that are co-written between the two of us. With a couple of pieces that are pre-existing from our own portfolio of work.
Serret: Indeed these works are not improvised however we use our love of improvising to keep these works living and breathing...
Therefore they are never exactly the same twice so that, similar to nature, the music is always growing and evolving
There are many layers to a lot of the tracks, how did you go about taking what you did live and arranging it for recording? Was it largely improvised or did you have a plan?
Barton: When we were producing the album we recorded a full run as if we had a live audience and then placed the track markers accordingly to the in and out points of those improvised yet structured segues in the specific pieces.
Serret: This was the most organic way to create a flow and bring our audience with us on the journey of Heartland.
Aunty Delmae Barton’s poetry on this album is so impactful. How does it make you feel to have her words immortalised in your music? How did her poetry inspire each of your musical lines?
Barton: It’s very important and special that Aunty Delmae’s legacy and poetry is part of this journey. Aunty Delmae’s work evokes the spirits of the landscape in words.
There seemed to be an underlying connection and natural synergy between the music and words without thinking about it too much.
Véronique, what inspired you to move away from the classical tradition you were brought up with? Do you enjoy revisiting those traditions?
Serret: Indeed even from the early stages of my classical training I was always interested in making music ‘off the page’ and making things up.. this was, I guess, early improvisation... though I didn’t know that at the time. The violin for me is my vehicle for musical expression. I still continue to play classical music at the highest level regularly performing solo works with orchestras, touring with the ACO and guesting with the Tasmanian Symphony, Sydney Symphony and Opera and Ballet orchestras. I also have many works written for me in the new music scene and remain a member of Ensemble Offspring. I also work a lot with dance companies, Bangarra and Sydney Dance Company, and feature on many Australian albums and film scores. Playing ‘’experimental’ music and writing my own music has allowed me to collaborate with all kinds of musicians from different genres and expand my musical palette.
You can find out more about Véronique Serret's extensive work here
William, you have done so much with your artform, are there any dream projects you’d still like to work on in the future?
Barton: I would like to continue to grow the portfolio of Australian repertoire and to give back to the storytelling that has given us so much.
You can find out more about William Barton's work here.
Finally, a bit of an interesting question that I would love to know your opinion on... The term ‘Australian Music’ is thrown around a lot in the classical world, what are your thoughts on this and how would you each describe ‘Australian Music’ or the ‘Australian Sound’?
Barton: I feel we are in a unique chapter in Australia’s musical history and culture. Using the sonic force of classical instruments to interpret the complexities and rugged beauty of the Australian landscape is a magical thing. Meanwhile acknowledging our ancestral connection to country and being inspired by our environment is what I think Australian Music is.