The Hobart

Five Things To Say

by Lily Whiting
Five Things To Say

Ahead of the now-unfor­tunately-cancelled Cygnet Folk Festival we spoke with musicians Five Things To Say about their musical collabora­tive efforts since their creative residency at Dreamfarm Eco-Arts retreat. Here are five things band member Elisse had to say…

How did you come together and how do you describe your sound?

Five Things to Say are a group of five musicians who unite to collaboratively compose a concert length set of works in five days. We have met for two creative residencies at Dreamfarm Eco-Arts Retreat, in 2019 and 2021, where we composed, performed and recorded an album in under a week. I initially put the invitation out to colleagues that I have played with in different musical circles, who I greatly admire and who otherwise wouldn’t play music together. We challenge ourselves to transcend our different musical languages and backgrounds to create truly original music. In the past, I have played jazz and Brazilian music with Nico, folk and Ethno folk with Joe, Indian Classical and bluegrass with Josh and classical and contemporary with Emily. Together, our sound could be described as a feast of musical flavours and textures inspired by a rich tapestry of global music traditions.

How has your sound evolved since your first intensive creative residency and getting to know each other better?

This time round we explored more textures and tonal com­binations, added more unusual instruments and more harmo­nies. Since we have become familiar with the ways in which we work well together, we really jumped headfirst into our second collaboration, and composed and recorded quite a bit more than we did in our first residency. Despite the differences between our first and second albums, there is a strong thread – a recognisable group sound – that carries through both recordings.

How do you create new material?

When we get together, we always start off by jamming and improvising. Often each of us will have a ‘seed idea’, which could be many things: a melodic fragment, a scale or raga, a sequence of interesting chords, a rhythm pattern etc. We throw these around as fuel for our jams and spend time discussing what we like and what works well. The piece itself tends to emerge organi­cally as we follow the sounds that we’re most excited by. One thing that is very special about our group composition process is that we try every idea, no matter how whacky it may seem at the time! This has led to some unusual and fun musical experiments and adds complexity and depth to the music. Other musicians may enjoy listening out for some of our melodic and rhythmic quirks.

You play some unusual instruments. What’s your weirdest and favourite?

Emily’s DIY eel-skin erhu! She made the instrument based on the Chinese erhu, which is made with python skin, has two strings, and is played with a bow. Emily chose to make hers with Tasmanian eel skin which is thick and fatty, resulting in a haunting sound that’s a bit like an erhu, violin and flute mixed together.

Who were you most looking forward to seeing?

I was very much look forward to hearing Lior and Domini; Animal in Hiding at the festival. I met Lior at Dreamfarm Eco-Arts Retreat in the Huon Valley last winter as part of a songwriter’s residency. It was a pleasure to share creative space with him and I am looking forward to hearing the new music written during that retreat.

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May 2024

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