Musician and producer Erland Cooper has worked with artists including Paul Weller and Damon Albarn. He’s also one of a group of artists who’ve created Welcome to the Forest, which opens Waltham Forest London Borough of Culture 2019.

Erland Cooper tells us a little about what locals can expect from the genre-defying event.

Can you tell us a little about who you are and what you do?

My name is Erland. I’m originally from the Orkney Islands and I try to write music that captures a sense of nature, travel, people and place. I grew up with a strong sense of community in a small fishing village called Stromness. 

From doing the first live piano performance in the borough’s superb Walthamstow Wetlands to a full live music video with a small ensemble in Walthamstow Assembly Hall, I’ve spent a great deal of time getting to know Walthamstow in 2018.

What can people expect from your part in Welcome to the Forest

It will be a very immersive experience. As guests of all ages are free to walk through and around the Nest they will be bathed in patterns of both sound and light. I’ve written a 15-minute piece of music with 5 sections, which I hope symbolises a murmuration of starlings. Music and sound will weave around 20 speakers in true surround sound – both in a circle and on the vertical axis – while 71 lights will create truly unique patterns of clear and bold movement, much like a spirograph but with rather more angles! It will be gentle, exciting but hopefully a warm and memorable experience. 

Who have you been working with as part of the process?

I’ve collaborated with the ground-breaking Marshmallow Laser Feast (MLF). They are ambitious, passionate, fun and technically brilliant people. They too share a deep respect for the environment, so it felt like a meeting of kindred spirits. 

In writing for the community, I got to know and work with a number of choral groups. I’ve recorded over 1000 voices, from experienced groups to school children of all abilities, and they will all come together within the piece as subtle layers. I’ve always seen this as a truly collaborative work, for and with the community, that aims to capture an essence of the borough; its people, wildlife and greens spaces. 

Why do you think Waltham Forest is the right place for the first ever London Borough of Culture?

There is a joyous sense of community, inclusion and vibrant arts scene in the borough and I’ve felt welcomed throughout the entire year, culminating in this commission. For a boy from Orkney to get to write music to help open this year for London is a humbling experience.

In three words, what should people expect from Welcome to the Forest?

Murmuration (of) Light (&) Sound