Opera North has announced Walking Home: Sound Journeys for Lockdown, a new commission for BBC Arts and Arts Council England’s Culture in Quarantine programme.

Following the recent easing of regulations on exercise and time spent outdoors, five artists will write and record new works to be listened to while walking. The project builds on Opera North’s award-winning and innovative sound walks programme, for which music was composed to be listened to through headphones during guided city walks in Hull and Newcastle.

The new series will be written for listeners to take with them anywhere. Each work will be 15 minutes long and the artists are writing and recording their pieces at their homes across the UK and Europe.

“The spark for the Walking Home commissions came from the strange alchemy we found between walker, place and music that was powerfully evident in the past sound journey commissions we have made for the Humber Bridge and River Tyne,” Opera North’s Head of Projects Jo Nockels commented.

“While these five new walking commissions are on a much more intimate scale, and meant for wherever you are, all five respond to the dynamic of walking, listening through headphones and taking in your surroundings to produce an experience as much created by the listener as by the artists. They might offer a soundtrack to a daily escape from lockdown; intensify the sensations experienced on their chosen route; or conjure up something altogether harder to define.”

The five contributors are cellist and composer Abel Selaocoe; qanun virtuoso Maya Youssef; oud player and composer Khyam Allami; vocalist, violinist and songwriter Alice Zawadski; and accordionist and experimentalist Martin Green of the folk trio Lau. Their genre-busting works will fuse folk, jazz, Middle Eastern and African traditions, classical and contemporary music.

Nockels added: “We are delighted to be working with five such brilliant and varied composer/musicians on this project, each of whom innovates way beyond the boundaries of genre. Together they will form a collection of music that is refreshing, unexpected and individual.”

One of 25 new commissions for Culture in Quarantine, Walking Home will be available through broadcast slots across BBC radio and television, through podcasts on BBC Sounds. and via the BBC Arts website.



Khyam Allami will be writing and recording his sound walk from his current base in Berlin, taking a cinematic approach to the disconcerting atmosphere of urban areas under lockdown (Opera North).