BBC launches music and nature-themed programming as part of 'Soundscapes for Wellbeing' project

A new project from the BBC invites audiences to take part in a 'virtual nature experiment', in which they will be asked to respond to digital nature soundscapes

Published: January 25, 2021 at 1:06 pm

The BBC has launched Soundscapes for Wellbeing, a new project which invites audiences to take part in a UK-wide 'Virtual Nature Experiment' exploring the role of virtual nature experiences to boost wellbeing during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.


The 'Virtual Nature Experiment' will be run in collaboration with the University of Exeter to explore people's responses to digital nature soundscapes created by sound recordist Chris Watson and composer Nainita Desai.

BBC Sounds Effects will relaunch its digital archive as an interactive platform, featuring tens of thousands of recorded sounds of nature. Sounds featured on the platform include the first ever nature recording made on a wax cylinder in 1889 and an encounter between David Attenborough and a mountain gorilla. Website visitors will be able to use the new 'Mixer Tool' feature to create mixes and share their soundscapes on BBC Sounds Effects.

A raft of programmes blending music and nature will be launched across the BBC over the course of the next month. The New Music Show will feature a mix from Una Lee's soundscape created with sounds gathered in Antarctica; BBC's Winterwatch presenter Gillian Burke will choose music and natural sounds from the BBC Sound Effects Library that help her wellbeing on an episode of Slow Radio; Free Thinking will explore the concept of eco-criticism and Radio 6 will host an episode of 'SUPERNATURE' which features interviews with Rhiane Fatinikun, founder of Black Girls Hike, nature writer Robert Macfarlane and Scottish composer Erland Cooper.

All programmes involved with Soundscapes for Wellbeing are listed below:

Monday 25-Friday 29 January

Petroc Trelawny launched the Soundscapes for Wellbeing project with broadcasts of sound effects from the BBC Sound Effects digital archive.

Music Matters
Saturday 30 January

Kate Molleson explores how natural and musical soundscapes affect mental health and explains the 'Virtual Nature Experiment' in more detail.

New Music Show
Saturday 30 January

Hear Una Lee's soundscape, which was created with sounds gathered in Antarctica. Lee composes sound works which focus on subjects of time, memory, the human condition and ecology.

Slow Radio: Take me To Your Happy Place
Saturday 31 January

BBC TV's Winterwatch presenter Gillian Burke chooses music and natural sounds from the BBC Sound Effects Library that encourage her own wellbeing. Her soundscape includes gentle lapping of waves, wind rustling the leaves of ash trees in a wood, and the calls of doves and nocturnal crickets.

Alongside Burke's soundscape will be music by William Grant Still, Gustav Holst, Bill Evans, Aretha Franklin, Matthew Halsall and the Rev Milton Brunson.

Free Thinking: Eco-Criticism
Tuesday 2 February

Lisa Mullen examines the links between literature and nature alongside a panel of guests, asking how writers from history have considered the environment in their work.

BBC Sounds

Radio 6's Mary Anne Hobbs has created a Soundscapes for Wellbeing Ambient Focus Mix, which now features 3D nature soundscapes, making for a more immersive listening experience on headphones. The new version also features a new introduction from David Attenborough.

Radio 6

Lauren Laverne
Monday 25 January

From Monday 25 January, the Radio 6 Music Breakfast show will run a weekly special, SUPERNATURE, in which Laverne will meet guests including Rhiane Fatinikun, founder of Black Girls Hike, nature and landscape writer Robert Macfarlane and Scottish multi-instrumentalist and contemporary composer Erland Cooper.

Shaun Keaveny
Monday 25 January

Musician Matthew Herbert will join Shaun to help him create his own natural soundscape.

Radcliffe & Maconie
Saturday 30 January

Radcliffe & Maconie will interview composer Nainita Desai about her soundscapes created for the Virtual Nature Experiment. They'll also talk to nature writer and podcaster Melissa Harrison about her experience of the great outdoors, and play some of their favourite nature-inspired music.

BBC Two – Winterwatch
Thursday 28 January


Chris Packham will talk to Alex Smalley, PhD Researcher at the University of Exeter, who has designed The Virtual Nature Experiment with the BBC, about the project and how experiencing nature digitally affects us. The programme will also include an excerpt from Gillian's piece for Radio 3's Slow Radio, and the Kaleidoscope Orchestra will perform music interspersed with sounds from nature.


Freya ParrDigital Editor and Staff Writer, BBC Music Magazine

Freya Parr is BBC Music Magazine's Digital Editor and Staff Writer. She has also written for titles including the Guardian, Circus Journal, Frankie and Suitcase Magazine, and runs The Noiseletter, a fortnightly arts and culture publication. Freya's main areas of interest and research lie in 20th-century and contemporary music.

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