Melbourne singer-songwriter Georgia Fields releases her new album 'Hiraeth' today. Inspired by a Welsh word with no direct translation, the album is an art-pop ode to the many languages of longing. To celebrate the release, Fields breaks down the meaning behind the album title and shares some of her favourite untranslatable words. Get ready to upgrade your vocab with these lesser-known idioms.
A profound longing for a home you can’t return to because it no longer exists. Acute grief for the lost places of your past. Nostalgia, tinged with homesickness, laced with love. These are the things I understand hiraeth to mean – although I’ve been told by Welsh people that it’s impossible to translate the concept definitively. I stumbled upon the enigmatic word early on in the album writing process, and it weaved its way through the fabric of the songs, particularly the opening track, Find Your Way Back. I wrote this song about moving a lot as a kid and how that longing for home becomes 'a map with no edge/a maze that’s all hedge'.
In a sentence: “I can’t visit the cafe since they changed owners; the coffee is shit now, and my heart overflows with a deep hiraeth.”
This now-obsolete noun was previously used to describe the contemplation of dust. Specifically, the realisation that it’s made up of skin and other decomposing bits of living creatures. Gross. To engage in a good old-fashioned bout of dustsceawung is to ruminate on the transient nature of all things, that all things return to dust. It may sound macabre, but there's also something beautiful about acknowledging the temporary nature of our existence. And floating dust looks magic when it's caught in a sunbeam. There’s a smidge of dustsceawung in album tracks Water to Water and When to Leave the Party.
In a sentence: “What are you doing tonight, wanna dustsceawung and chill?”
When translated literally: 'the spirit of the stairs'. This very elegant phrase refers to the phenomenon of coming up with the perfect comeback long after the argument is over. How many clever, searing, perfectly-timed retorts have I delivered, in my imagination, two days later? But being a writer means I get to deliver those zingers after the fact, in song form. There’s a lot of tongue-in-cheek humour in the single Persuasion. I feel like the protagonist of this song turned up on their ex’s doorstep in the middle of the night in an attempt to have the last word.
In a sentence: “I was so shocked that she brought my fear of pompoms into it; of course, I had l'esprit d'escalier.”
'Mane' means 'moon', and 'gata' is 'street' or 'road' – so mångata is sometimes translated as Moon River (as sung by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's). Essentially, this word describes the wavy, road-like reflection of a full moon on water. Where does that cosmic path lead? There’s something liminal about mångata; in my mind, it straddles both the physical and metaphysical realms. I have an early childhood memory of driving by the ocean and seeing a huge yellow moon rising over the water just as a car crash unfolded in front of us. The glistening water, the glinting glass… I reference that memory in the lyrics of the album closer, I Saw It Coming.
In a sentence: “Oh, we had such a romantic first date. We got drive-through and parked up at the lookout – there was the most epic mångata on the bay.”
This word describes the movement of dappled light as it filters between the leaves of a tree. It encapsulates the dance of shadows and sunlight, but specifically in the context of tree leaves. Shadow and light are recurring themes in Hiraeth.
The album was recorded at producer Josh Barber’s home studio, a converted 1930s church hall at the back of his rural property in the Victorian goldfields. I would stay for 2 or 3 days at a time, and Josh’s family generously put me up. The window from my bed had the most beautiful view of an ornamental pear tree. When I think back to the recording process, the dappled light of their garden is a very verdant memory. Album song Write it on the Sky starts with a shimmery sound reminiscent of komorebi. That kaleidoscopic sonic palette is also a big feature of Holding My Hands Out.
In a sentence: “This is the perfect album to listen to with headphones on a picnic blanket while admiring the komorebi.”