“My brother is so noisy I need a piece of quiet.” So says four-year old Olivia, whose words inspired a song by Lior called A Piece of Quiet, which is the title track of the latest album from The Hush Foundation.

Hush Music was developed by Dr Catherine Crock with the aim of reducing the stress and anxiety felt by patients and their families in hospitals by using music to help create a peaceful, calm and uplifting environment. Hush 16: A Piece of Quiet is a collaboration between singer-songwriter Lior, a cappella group The Idea of North and composer Elena Kats-Chernin.

A Piece of QuietLior and six-year old Edgar work together on the latest Hush album. Photo courtesy of the Hush Foundation

The tracks range from an instrumental piece by Kats-Chernin called Pitter Patter, to a gently beguiling song by Lior called The Thing About Turtles, to Edgar’s Essay, written by The Idea of North’s Naomi Crellin and performed by Lior, The Idea of North and the Sydney Children’s Choir. All the lyrics were inspired by the stories, conversations, thoughts and observations of young cancer patients and other children.

The Thing About Turtles took its inspiration from eight-year old Tahlia, who said: “If I made a rule, it would be that no one can throw away plastic or bags or rubbish near the ocean or the water because of the turtles.” The opening track, Edgar’s Essay, was written in response to the thoughts of six-year old Edgar who said: “I love being a kid. I love being young and I do like acting like a slug and kids’ days go very slow.”

Other songs reflect the children’s insights into bullies, kindness and the need to be brave, while 11-year old Sienna was the inspiration behind A Hula Hoop of Space, saying: “People have a hula hoop of space and you let them have that space. Countries should have a hula hoop of space too, and if you want to go to another country you ask to go inside their hula.”

Asked how it all started, Lior says: “I believe that Dr Catherine Crock invited The Idea of North to be involved in the making of a new album. Initially the idea was to do a musical interpretation of The Little Prince and I was invited to join them and possibly be the voice of the Little Prince, but there were some problems with the [rights] so we thought, ‘well this album is really all about the kids and it would be great to involve them in the creative process.’ So we came up with the idea of posing a whole range of big life questions and not-so-big questions to the kids and using their answers as the basis for the lyrics that we then set songs to. We wanted to write a collection of songs that would be loved by both kids and adults. We were really adamant that the songs would work at a parallel level if you like, so adults wouldn’t just feel they were putting up with them.”

Lior, who is the father of two young children himself, has clearly found the whole experience very moving. “The work that Hush does is fabulous and so meaningful, and this album, I think, exceeded everybody’s expectations in terms of how emotionally fulfilling and rewarding it was,” he says. “As you can imagine, some of the answers that we got were just so full of wisdom and humour and were so moving. Thinking about some of the answers, I still get teary. Kids have such beautiful and vivid imaginations. I think we all expected there to be some funny and quirky answers but the wisdom, actually, was quite extraordinary.”

“It’s a beautiful cycle, the way the spark of inspiration came from the kids and then through the process of crafting songs to their words, it’s delivered back to them. I know from some of the feedback I’ve got that [the children interviewed] have now heard the songs and they can’t believe how the seemingly simple answers that they contributed have turned into these songs.”

Lior says they didn’t really set out to create a calming album as such. “It’s more of a dynamic album,” he says. “We just wanted to create an album where the kids would love the songs, so the love for the songs would bring about a spirit of calm and hope and positivity. Rather than us creating something tranquil, it’s actually moves around quite a lot.”

He describes the three-way musical collaboration between himself, Kats-Chernin and The Idea of North as “wonderful” but admits that “it went through teething stages because we are all artistically different. Also Elena and The Idea of North are based in Sydney and I’m in Melbourne. So there were a few teething issues and we did express concern at the beginning that we didn’t want the album to feel like a compilation album of three artists. But, I think, as it went along we gathered what we liked about each other’s writing, and hopped in where we felt we could contribute something. We spent a bit of time in the same room as well,” he says.

“Take a song like The Food Chain for instance. That started as an instrumental composition of Elena’s and Naomi took that and changed the feel of the composition a little bit. Then we took some words that were borne out of a conversation that two kids were having about the food chain and how because mosquitos bite you they are top of the food chain. So it went through these wonderful detours that no one expected. When Elena listened to the final product she couldn’t believe that that was borne out of an instrumental piece that she wrote on piano.  So there were some wonderful twists and turns involved.”

Lior played the songs he wrote to his own children for feedback initially. “My kids are always a good gauge because they tell the truth and they’ve heard everything I’ve done. Early on I played them The Thing about Turtles, which is the first song I wrote for it, and they just loved that song and that gave me a sense of affirmation,” he says.

“Recently, we went into Westmead Children’s Hospital and performed a few of the songs and there was a really positive response as well. More than anything the kids were just engaged the whole time and when kids aren’t engaged you know it! We finished with Edgar’s Essay and by the end of it they were singing along so it was a positive sign that gave us a really heart-warming feeling.”

Hush 16: A Piece of Quiet will be launched at Sydney’s City Recital Hall on November 15 and at Melbourne’s Recital Centre on November 24. “We are going to recreate the whole album live,” says Lior. “We will be joined by the Goldner String Quartet and a whole host of musicians. And there will be a few surprises so it will be a beautiful evening.”