'In Place': An extended multi-media song-cycle

This is exploring a sense of place in the British Isles; how it informs our cultural identity; shapes our language and dialects; provides both solace and stimulation, and contains histories both universal and personal.

“Words act as a compass; place-speech serves literally to en-chant the land – to sing it back into being, and to sing one’s being back into it. We need now urgently, a Counter-Desecration Phrasebook that would comprehend the world – a glossary of enchantment for the whole earth, which would allow nature to talk back and would help us to listen.” (Robert Macfarlane ‘Landmarks’ 2015)

For more information click on our new website In-Place

The song cycle consists of 10 songs. The writers include Robert Macfarlane, Paul Farley, Nick Papadimitrou, Daljit Nagra,, Jackie Morris, Richard Skelton and Autumn Richardson. This provides  multiple styles, cultural viewpoints and personal histories from a contemporary perspective.  Other elements are woven into the composition; place names, folksongs, other found texts. 

The album is released on 11th May on the Squeaky Kate label.

Field recording in Cumbria

Field recording in Cumbria

Link to a short film of the premiere at Sound Scotland

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Colin Riley composer (Moov/Homemade Orchestra)

Melanie Pappenheim voice (DV8/The Shout/Damon Albarn)

Nic Pendlebury viola (Smith Quartet/Steve Reich/Django Bates/Pulp)

Kate Halsall  piano/keys (Michael Clarke/Ockham’s Razor/Galvanize

Stephen Hiscock percussion (Ensemble Bash/Steve Reich/Nitin Sawhney))

Ruth Goller electric bass (Melt Yourself Down/Let Spin/Gufo)


A short film (Sophie Dixon) examining the source of this project was shown at the ‘Language, Landscape and the Sublime Symposium’ at Dartington Hall and Sharpham House, Devon, England June 28/29 2016.

In addition to the 7 texts being set to music, they also form the focus for 3 radio programmes/podcasts for Resonance FM. The first of these 'It Does Absolutely Nothing But Be Itself' is available via mixcloud. 

This project has come about through the collision of several strands: a) the word-hoard of Robert Macfarlane’s book ‘Landmarks’ (2015), a glossary of lost words which invite closer observation of the landscapes around us; b) an interest in making use of regional dialect; c) the merging of field recording  (sounds from the natural world, urban environments and personal conversations) with scored music; d) the collage of disparate texts; e) an interest in psychogeography and walking through unusual terrain; f) the extension of the song-form.

This project has be commissioned by Sound Festival Scotland . It is funded by the Arts Council if England and through the PRS for Music Foundation's 'Beyond Borders' programme which is a commissioning and touring programme run in partnership with Creative Scotland, Arts Council Wales, Arts Council of Northern Ireland / An Chomhairle Ealaion. 

‘A bewitching, dynamic soundscape’  (Robert Macfarlane)

“An album of rare delicacy. Mysteriously melancholic, inviting, languorous.” (Bill Bruford)

"An engaging and captivating experience. You could hear that music many times and always be finding new things within it."  (Kit Downes)

“A fascinating collection of sounds and words, depicting place and all its space with beautiful tranquillity.” (Fay Hield)

Review 1

Review 2


A bit of background

A place can make you feel many things. There is something very powerful about the intersection of a particular location and our moment in it. Places are constantly renewed in unexpected ways by changing conditions; weather, seasons, times of day, the company we keep, sounds and smells, and the surrounding culture.

I have always been fascinated with the idea that layers of history leave contours and traces of those who have been inthe same space before us. I love the way that ruins and industrial relics act as signs to how different a place would have been in a previous time and my walks often involve tracing the routes of disused railways, canals and ancient tracks.

Through these songs I aim to steer a listener’s attention to the smaller details. In an age when there is ubiquitous use of headphones and a consumption of musicas a commodity or mood-enhancer, I feelmy role as a composer is to reclaim a more mindful listening mode.  Discovering Robert Macfarlane’s recent book Landmarks, which reconnects us via lost words to a keener sense of seeing, was a catalyst for the project. It brought together my ideas about a sense of place and my hopes for keener musical listening.

In Place is a gathering together of feelings, associations, geographical details, regional identities, dialects, place names, personal memories, imagined routes, and historical connections. To help in this I have commissioned new texts from a broad range of writers for whom a sense of place is very much at the core of their work. These, along with a scattering of various existing texts, have become the lyrics for the songs, enabling the piece to be diverse, multi-dimensional and hopefully, unexpected.


Some blogs from Riley Notes about the creation of In Place

The Sheep and the Pen


Taking Place


Waking Into The Piece




Maybe I’ve Aways Been A Psychogeographer


Falling Into Place


Over The Hills and Far Away


Following The Footsteps