Groundbreaking composer Erland Cooper brings latest project to Southampton’s Turner Sims

Groundbreaking composer Erland Cooper brings latest project to Southampton’s Turner Sims

Image: Erland Cooper – Credit Samuel Davies.

Scottish groundbreaking composer Erland Cooper – who merges music with evocative storytelling and conceptual art – has just heard the mastertape he buried in the earth three years ago for the very first time.

The only recording of his new work, Carve The Runes Then Be Content With Silence, was left underground to be nurtured and manipulated by the soil for 3 years with all digital copies permanently deleted. This  unique album is now set for release on 20 September – in line with the Autumn Equinox on 22 September.

The release will be preceded by a number of select live dates in June, including the prestigious Orkney St Magnus Festival and an album world premiere at the London Barbican, followed by a full UK and European tour in the autumn, bringing him to Southampton’s Turner Sims.

Hailed by The Guardian as “nature’s songwriter”, Erland ‘planted’ the sole recording of the work – on ¼ inch magnetic tape – in May 2021 along with the sheet music near his childhood home in Orkney. In an unprecedented move, Erland’s record company Mercury KX / Decca agreed to release the album that, instead of being mixed, was going under the ground. A date for the public reveal, at London Barbican, was also announced as the tape lay, as yet unheard, in the soil – a release plan never before seen in the record industry.

Erland Cooper explains, “It’s a meditation on value, process, patience and art. Any alterations to the sound and music, produced by the earth, will be reincorporated into the pages of the final score for live performance, as orchestral instructions. Then, the work is complete.”

The work is a new composition for solo violin and string ensemble. Over three movements (Movement 1: Carve The Runes / Movement 2: Then Be Content / Movement 3: With Silence) it celebrates George Mackay Brown on his centenary, written 100 years since the Orcadian poet’s birth.

On burying the tape, Erland left a cryptic trail for anyone to search and find it if they so choose, issuing a map with additional clues revealed every solstice and equinox. The tape was found in September 2022 and (literally) unearthed by Orkney residents Victoria and Dan Rhodes. They had planned a whole holiday around the unusual quest.

Since then the tape – carefully set in a wood and glass cabinet with the sheet music and a violin placed just above the tape to protect it from any overzealous shovels – has been drying out whilst on display in independent record shops across the country. Gradually making its way down from Scotland, its final destination before going back to the studio was the Barbican, where it was exhibited at the arts centre in all its soil-ridden glory. Also in the cabinet is the carved rune stone which was placed on top of the earth to mark the spot, and which can now be seen on the album cover.

The tape left the Barbican for its final leg of a very long journey, going back into the studio for its delicate digitalisation process, in preparation for Cooper to hear it for the first time since its burial 3 years ago. He will now rescore the work, staying true to every sound on the decomposed tape, and the composition will be finished: COMPOSE, DECOMPOSE, RECOMPOSE.

Apart from the buried copy of the sheet music, Erland entrusted three further copies of the score to three custodians: musician Paul Weller; novelist Ian Rankin; and radio presenter Elizabeth Alker.

Has the project worked? And what does it mean? All will be revealed to the public on Saturday 8 June when, at a concert like no other, the unearthed tape itself (all being well) is played at the Barbican and a large ensemble of musicians perform the newly finished work live for the very first time.

A special Limited Edition LP, recycled, signed, numbered 1–1,000 and presented with a piece of the original planted tape (after its premiere) along with a certificate of authenticity is available to pre-order now from

Originally recorded at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland with internationally acclaimed solo violinist Daniel Pioro (Jonny Greenwood, BBC Philharmonic) and Studio Collective, a specially selected RCS chamber string group.

Mixed by Marta Salogni (Bjork, Anna Meredith, Daniel Avery) and mastered by Guy Davie onto ¼ inch magnetic tape before all digital files were permanently deleted.


UK tour dates:


Sat 08 LONDON Barbican (Album Reveal)

Tue 11 LIVERPOOL Philharmonic

Wed 12 CARDIFF Acapela Studio

Thu 13 STROUD Sub Rooms

Fri 14 TOTNES St Mary’s Church

Fri 28 ORKNEY Kirkwall St Magnus Cathedral



Wed 20 YORK National Centre for Early Music

Thu 21 MANCHESTER Halle St Peters

Fri 22 SAFFRON WALDEN Saffron Hall

Sat 23 SHEFFIELD Upper Chapel

Sun 24 SUNDERLAND Fire Station

Mon 25 GLASGOW St Lukes

Tue 26 NORWICH Arts Centre

Wed 27 OXFORD SJE Arts

Thu 28 SOUTHAMPTON Turner Sims

Fri 29 BRISTOL Beacon

Sat 30 BRIGHTON Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts


Tickets available from:


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