FOLLOWING the recent easing of regulations on exercise and time spent outdoors in the UK, Opera North has announced Walking Home: Sound Journeys for Lockdown, its commission for BBC Arts and Arts Council England’s Culture in Quarantine programme.

Building on the Leeds-based company’s history of award-winning and innovative sound walks and installations, five artists will write and record new works specifically to be listened to whilst walking. Crossing folk, jazz, Middle Eastern and African traditions, classical and contemporary music, with a tendency to experiment and to break the confines of genre, the 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.

One of 25 new commissions for Culture in Quarantine, Walking Home is a vibrant cross-section of music-making in Britain today, made by musicians under lockdown for audiences in the same predicament. The series engages with our new context for walking and solitary activity, and each 15-minute piece offers an opportunity to renew our imaginative connections with our environment.

“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,” said Opera North’s Head of Projects Jo Nockels.

“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.

“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.”

The artists are currently writing and recording their pieces in home studios across the UK and Europe.

Along with the other commissions, Walking Home will be available through broadcast slots across BBC Radio and Television, through podcasts on BBC Sounds, and via the BBC Arts website, continuing with the Culture in Quarantine mission to bring the arts to UK homes despite arts venue closures, social distancing, and UK-wide lockdowns.