Kalkadungu Man & Didgeridoo Wunderkind.
‘My passion is to create a journey for people through music and present to them a diversity in musical styles with the didgeridoo and engage with audiences about the uniqueness of Australia. It has been a specific passion of mine to work closely with classical music and composers to develop and sustain music for the didgeridoo in this environment.’ – William Barton
William Barton is a striking indigenous performer, composer, contemporary instrumentalist and improvisor of the extended technique of the didgeridoo, an instrument he’s been playing for over two decades. He first began playing the instrument in Mount Isa, far north western Queensland and made his professional orchestral debut as a soloist when he was just 17 years old.
In 2019, William is Melbourne Recital Centre’s Artist-in-Residence, shining a light on the power of indigenous storytelling and music, transforming the role the didgeridoo plays in contemporary and classical music and preserving its cultural significance while expanding its possibilities.
‘The power of the instrument and the ability to communicate through a musical language soon became my world. To converse with people from my background, the Kalkadunga nation, but also to the rest of the world,’ - William Barton tells Limelight magazine
William’s passion for indigenous storytelling and powerful musicianship has seen him share his stories and music across the world, working with acclaimed orchestras, conductors and artists. British conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, Sir Simon Rattle said Barton’s performance with the orchestra had a profound impact on him and inspired him to pursue the exploration of indigenous music in classical contexts:
'He's one of the great virtuosos… It's a sound I had heard before, but never with that sort of technique. The possibilities are extraordinary. This is a great man. He radiates. You watch him and think, this is impressive. But the players were very happy to have made the connection. The point is to make the step. And I think everyone learned from everybody else, and everybody has made contact. That's just the start.'
For William, connection plays a vital role to his music-making - a connection to the land he is from and the land he performs on, to the people he performs with. His mother, Aboriginal elder Aunty Delmae Barton is a song-writer, poet, performing artist and painter, recognised as Australia's Dreamtime Opera Diva. William and Aunty Delmae perform together as a duo often, weaving stories that illustrate the ritual relationship of the Indigenous people to the land and culture and mesmerising audiences with their combination of didgeridoo, song and spoken word.
'In my mind, every time I play I acknowledge the tradition in my art form, my uncle, my country – Kalkadunga country – and mum and dad… That means that when I’m onstage, I’m able to go on a journey and explore the possibilities of the instrument. And those are endless' – William Barton
Melbourne Recital Centre proudly stands on the land of the Kulin Nation and we pay our respects to Melbourne’s First People, to their Elders past and present, and to our shared future.