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This piece was written after visiting Winton in Western Queensland. I had never been out west, and I was instantly taken by the striking, harsh beauty of the landscape.
Driving from Longreach I was struck by the way the country slowly morphed, as the trees gave way to vast grasslands, stretching literally as far as the eye can see. Even though most of the land is used for sheep and cattle you see very few livestock and you really get a sense of wilderness and the vastness of our country. It is very flat and sparse, and one gets a similar type of broad, panoramic view of the surroundings as you might see from a mountain view. I almost got a sense of vertigo looking across the endless plains.
There is a surprising number of birds; seeing a brilliant gold and green flock of budgies contrasting the barren land was stunning. The landscape is occasionally punctuated by totemic, red, rocky outcrops, which the locals call 'Jump Ups'. On my first afternoon in Winton, I went up to a Jump up on Rangeland’s station and explored the cracked, crevassed surface and then watched a spectacular and colourful sunset from a high position across the plain.
The night sky is unbelievable. The darkness was kind of scary as there was only a sliver of moon and as I watched the lights of Winton disappear into pitch darkness as I drove out into the night, the combination of nocturnal dark and the vast nothingness around me gave me a strange, lonely feeling. But then getting out of the car and looking into the spangled night sky I was overwhelmed by a primal feeling of wonder. I feel mankind must have experienced this an uncountable number of times, staring into a clear night sky which seems quite alien to the sky one can see in a city.
I found it impossible to capture the spirit of this amazing landscape of our vast country in photography, so this piece attempts to capture something of the feeling of the land in music. We hear the dry rattling wood of col legno, violin bird calls and flickering harmonics all of which try to paint a sonic picture of the plains. A high cello solo is an attempt to emulate that sense of vertigo I experienced looking across the plains and a heat stricken allegro middle section attempts to convey the tectonic starkness and harshness of the landscape.
John Rotar on Plains Baked Golden in the Morning Light (2021)