Caught by the River

These Feral Lands: A Year Documented in Sound & Art – JANUARY SOUNDS

Laura Cannell | 29th January 2021

Laura Cannell introduces a brand new, year-long column — a collaboration with the cellist Kate Ellis which is to feature new compositions and films from a variety of UK and Irish artists.

In early 2020 I was commissioned by Alex Groves of SOLO to compose a solo cello piece for the incredible, Ireland-based musician Kate Ellis. Though I normally write and play my own music, I have also written and arranged for other players, orchestral and non, so this was an interesting opportunity to write for a soloist. We met for the first time in a rehearsal room at LSO St Lukes, in early March 2020, to workshop the piece — well, actually, we met at Liverpool Street Station, having both arrived on different trains — and our first conversations were on the walk between the station and the venue. 

It’s a magical moment when you meet a musician who understands the way you describe and notate music. Kate embraced the space within the composition to bring to life the memories of wolves and landscape-inspired resonances that I had written in, and left plenty of room for interpretation. Following that one meeting, we have since developed a strong writing partnership which has produced two releases; an album, These Feral Lands: Volume I — including collaborations with writer & comedian Stewart Lee, musician Polly Wright, and writer/broadcaster Jennifer Lucy Allan — and the recent Winter Rituals EP.

The piece I composed for Kate was inspired by wild animals. Living so rurally here in Suffolk, the woodland and farm creatures far outweigh any humans, especially with the massive quietening of the past twelve months. I started thinking about Kate, the place she lived, and her cello — and began looking into wolf calls. I found some archived audio recordings of wolf calls from the USA and the UK, and then wondered when the last wild wolves were living near us. I transcribed these vocalisations and they became the core of the cello piece which is called ‘Inhabited: The Last Wild Wolf in Ireland’ (the wolves haunted and hunted the Irish landscape for several hundred years longer than their English and Scottish cousins).

This music, with its ideas about how places are inhabited by the wild and the feral even when we can’t see it, was the acorn to These Feral Lands. One year on, we’re excited to be embarking on a major project in twelve parts; THESE FERAL LANDS – A Year Documented in Sound and Art is a creative documentation of 2021 by Kate Ellis and myself in which we write, record and produce a new EP, with limited edition CDs, every month — alongside newly commissioned films by some of our favourite artists and creators. 

Caught by the River will be our special hosts, and at the end of every month you can come here to find our new film and music from A Year Documented in Sound and Art. We are really excited to invite you along. You can find January’s column below.

Film by Laura Sheeran

About the music:

  1. WASTELANDS     

‘Wastelands’ is inspired by plant folklore and the idea of life growing from the wastelands; from difficult and dormant places. There is still room for light and optimism, an opportunity to reframe what lies ahead.  

  1. SEA TOWER      

‘Sea Tower’ is a call to the sea. Inspired by the ebbing and flowing of the incoming tide, the original ideas were recorded inside Jaywick Martello Tower, beside the seafront in Essex.   


‘Harts Blood’ takes inspiration from the intimate sounds and expansive out-lands of the geographical surroundings of Laura’s home in Suffolk, simultaneously conjuring a space and intimacy where each bow drawn across a string cuts through the brittle winter air. 

The full EP is here and all the digital places.

See you next month for February Sounds and another special visual artist.


‘These Feral Lands – A Year Documented in Sound and Art’ is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.