From its minimalist, dissonant opening, a solo violin lost in an introspective, mournful soliloquy, Sculthorpe opens up timeless vistas. His work stretches notes to ring tension from them, disdaining melody or obvious coherence. The opening track, 'Irkanda I' is arthythmic, atonal, and attenuated, the violin striving for a natural feel in parodying birdsong, drawing you in to a wild landscape in a piece written in 1955. 'Irkanda', the sleeve notes explain, is an Aboriginal word for a remote, lonely place.
Sculthorpe is heavily influenced by the Australian landscape and the vast complexity of its natural world, its ancient cultures, and the threats posed to it by modern exploitation and abuses. The second track, "Irkanda IV", was written at a bleak time in Sculthorpe's life. Here, the solo violin is joined ... or perhaps bears witness to strings and percussion. Again, the feel is intense, bleak - Sculthorpe eschews any over-heavy reference to Western or European orchestral traditions, instead seeking out an identity which is both modern Australian and timeless.
His "Lament" employs the emotional tones of the cello, and this again features in "Cello Dreaming", where the didgeridoo, a keynote Sculthorpe instrument, makes brief foray. Highly introspective pieces, mournful, but not without a sense of hope. Separating them, Sculthorpe's "Second Sonata for strings" is a more driven, more dynamic piece, contrasting melodic passages with dissonance.
Sculthorpe is here grappling with a vast geography and a vast, unknown prehistory. He establishes a 'primitive' orchestration and instrumentation, stripping back his music to some very basic formats, then rebuilding from terse foundations to create a sense of emotional timelessness and homelessness. It is intense, and at times gripping, and is a far stretch from classical music which employs more romantic themes.