Day 6: Elsa Hewitt – Vastness of a Darkness

Day 6 of our 2019 charity Advent Calendar, in aid of War Child.

Future Bubblers alumni Elsa Hewitt is one of the most prolific musicians out there. Since 2017 she’s penned three albums, which has also spawned two singles and a trilogy compilation, centred around experimental pop with an undeniable verve for songwriting. Her donated track is among her best work, with melancholic vocal hooks reminiscent of early Imogen Heap underpinned by a lo-fi electronica sheen. We asked Elsa for a few words on the track but, given its personal significance, she went deep. It’s worth a full read at the bottom.

Download & donate.

Our featured charity for 2019 is War Childwhose work in post-conflict zones is done a bit differently. They recognise humans need more than just food and shelter to flourish after a war, breaking the cycle that leads to repeated conflicts by giving them purpose, education and cultural enrichment.

The dance floor has long-since been a safe space for the displaced, marginalised and persecuted to find community and expression. Safe Spaces represent the core of War Child’s work, providing vital refuge for young people to play, learn and regain their childhood.

Check the below playlist for all tracks in our Calendar.

Artwork across the series by Jodie Haines.

Elsa Hewitt on ‘Vastness of a Darkness’

“I was commissioned by Lewes Live Literature to make a track in response to suicide and suffering in silence. This wasn’t a random or aesthetic choice to ask me, it was because I’ve experienced the suicide of a friend in four separate instances throughout my life. I have always moved around a lot, drifting between friendship groups and locations, and so I have seen and felt the effect of this act in varying contexts. Each time these were people I would see regularly so I’ve been very aware of the circumstances leading up to their deaths, making it all the more confusing and affecting. This made it more difficult to write the track. I spent the first few months of 2019 in a mind maze, following different thoughts and reflections, trying to work out what I wanted to say. Part of me still had no words for it – no words can really do justice or speak for everyone, particularly if you’re turning it into a pop song. But the track was going to be put to a video made by a group of arts award students from Eastbourne College, so I needed it made and it needed to have words. I tried to avoid putting my own ego into the track and felt that it had to be understandable and accessible to all, particularly younger students, with no pretence. One of the teachers at the college and the organiser of the project had lost her son to suicide only a year or so prior to this, so I was also plagued with anxiety that she might not like it or agree with it and that made it ten times harder. I had to accept that I would never be totally happy with the outcome I had reached the crux of what I believed to be wrong with society, identifying a few fundamental societal constructs that cause so many young people to end their lives, or at least feel so bad, when they were surrounded by so many loving friends and family. It takes everyone by complete surprise every time. It’s brutal because we all would have so readily been there to support them if they had spoken out, completely non-judgementally. I could not get all of this content into one song so I had to just write something that worked lyrically and musically, and not try to say everything I thought in four minutes (I didn’t particularly want to rap either). In May 2019 the event Imagine Like A Crow took place at Eastbourne College where I performed four other ambient tracks that I’d made in the process before the video was shown.

I visited the college several times to discuss ideas with the students and try and come up with a concept for the video, as I had decided this would help me choose the words for the final version. The result is this experimental pop track with some (for me) questionable moments. For source material I used the college music department, recording piano, drums, marimba, the reverb in the corridors, as well as the sea, a local building site, and some interviews with students. The track I went with was built up from recording the flickering light in my bathroom. After layering more textures and ambience, I then sampled one of Tom Salway’s tracks. From there I added layers of guitar in an indie-math style approach as well as drums, and finally the vocals.”

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