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F I V E   E L E M E N T S 



Five Elements will take you on kaleidoscopic journey through the Australian landscape that traverses universal concepts linking humanity to our natural environment and spiritual core through music. 

Drawing inspiration from the belief in many ancient cultures that the entire universe was made of just five fundamental elements, earth, air, water, fire and ether, Riley Lee and the Enigma Quartet have commissioned and selected music from Australia’s finest compositional voices to present a strikingly original concert. 

The program allows audiences to experience new sound worlds created through the union of the meditative sounds and gestures of the shakuhachi and the rich harmonic palette of the string quartet, a convergence of Eastern Zen Buddhism with Western Classicism.

Five Elements features pieces by composers such as Ross Edwards, David Hirschfelder, Anne Boyd and Katy Abbott amongst many other luminaries and alongside existing music by Peter Sculthorpe.

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T H E   P R O J E C T


The idea came about when Riley & the Enigma Quartet shared a concert at the Bellingen Music Festival back in 2013 


The audience loved the collaborative works so much and it was such a unique soundworld that we decided we needed to commission a new body of work


After applying for several grants and just missing out, they were over the moon when they got the green light from the Australia Council for the Arts


One of the most amazing part of this project was approaching our favourite Aussie composers - and seeing if they were brave enough to write for the shakuhachi 


One of the challenges for Riley and the quartet was the difference in concepts of notation, rhythm, improvisation and flow between the Eastern and Western musical traditions 


Eight new works were written for this project by emerging voices, film composers and established artist - Riley had previously commissioned two existing works


After madly learning lots of notes and rehearsing together, babies often in tow, once the pieces were finished Five Elements was premiered at the Indendent Theatre Sydney in November 2018 


Riley and the Enigma Quartet worked with audio engineer and producer Jayson McBride to record all ten works at the Independent Theatre in early 2019


We are incredibly proud that the recording will be picked up by ABC Classics for digital release under the ABC Classics label in 2020


We will be taking this project on the road. Riley and the Enigma Quartet have been selected as Featured Artists for Musica Viva's regional touring in 2019 


Long-time collaborator and friend of the quartet, Ranui Young, whose work graces this website through his photographic lense will be curating visuals for live concerts - more to come


This project showcases Australian contemporary music and performance, crossing cultural boundaries and inviting audiences into an intimate chamber music space with unique sound-world 

R O S S   E D W A R D S   ' V O I C E   O F   T H E   R A I N '

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R I L E Y   L E E 


Riley Lee began playing Shakuhachi (bamboo flute) in Japan in 1971, studying with Chikuho Sakai and Katsuya Yokoyama


He was given the rank of Dai Shihan (grand master) in 1980

His training methods included practising barefoot in the snow, blowing his flute under waterfalls and in blizzards until icicles form at its end, and running the Boston Marathon and then playing Taiko drums at the finish line

Has performed & toured internationally including with the Boston and Sydney Symphony Orchestras and in venues such as the Kennedy Centre

Co-founded Taikoz with Ian Cleworth in 1995, Australia's dynamic festival drum group

Has released over 60 albums since 1980 and has millions of listens and downloads on Spotify and other social platforms ​


Performed alongside five other musicians atop the majestic 'sails' of the Sydney Opera House sails on January 1, 2000 broadcast across the globe


Has been instrumental in creating a professional presence of traditional Japanese music in Australia and founded the Australian Shakuhachi Society with his wife Patricia

Received his PhD from the University of Sydney, was made an honorary fellow of the University of Western Sydney and is currently lecturing as Visting Fellow at Princeton University

Lives with Patricia in beautiful Manly which faces both the Tasman Sea and Sydney Harbour 

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