EVENT NEWS: Music:Leeds Launch commission “Sonic Stops” celebrating Leeds’ musical heritage with an audio-visual virtual premiere


Leeds audio collective, Better Songs have created an audio journey across Leeds’ musical landscape in response to the Sounds of Our City Abbey House Museum exhibition.

The audio experience

Music:Leeds commissioned Leeds audio collective, Better Songs to create an audio journey across Leeds celebrating its musical landscape in response to the Abbey House Museum exhibition Sounds of Our City.

The project allows listeners to trace the musical geography of the city, following the route of two existing First Bus journeys crossing South to North and West to East.

Through two soundscape compositions spanning the length of the bus journeys, listeners will move in real-time through musical ‘stops’ immersing them in some of the music styles, places and stories featured in the Sounds of Our City exhibition. Making use of audio from the archive as well as new collaborations with local musicians, the soundscapes will weave together music, speech and atmospheric sounds to create a continuous journey and leave the listener curious to discover more.

The virtual premiere

On the 28th of April 2021, the compositions will be paired with visuals created by Split Design for a virtual premiere that will take viewers across Leeds, first from South to North on the number 2 First Bus route starting at 7 pm, then from West to East on the 50A First Bus route, starting at 8 pm with each route lasting around 45 minutes.

The soundscapes will remain available to listen to online or on the routes themselves when we are all able to get back on to buses as normal.

The design

As well as the powerful sonic journey of each route, Split Design’s visuals will take listeners and viewers along the virtual path of each bus route, allowing them to take in the landmarks and sights of Leeds that have inspired Better Songs to develop their soundscapes, including The Brudenell Social Club, Leeds Irish Centre, Roundhay Park and the West Indian Centre.

The creators

Better Songs is Rosie Parsons and Verity Watts who are an audio collective based in Leeds. Verity brings her experience as a producer for the BBC, commercial and community radio together with a passion for making unconventional and immersive audio. Rosie is a producer whose interest in using sound creatively has led her to make audio walks, sound art and radio documentaries.

Individually and working together as Better Songs Productions, they bring a range of unexpected approaches to tell stories and explore places through sound.

“The popularity of audio walks during lockdown inspired us to develop the idea of journeys which explore the rich sounds, stories and places of our city. We wanted people to be able to experience the soundscapes whether they’re at home or when they’re able to travel around the city. As well as celebrating Leeds’ most famous music landmarks we also wanted to include sounds from a range of communities who have played an equally important role in the city’s musical narrative.”

Sounds of Our City: The Exhibition

Sounds of Our City takes visitors on a journey through the musical stories of Leeds. Starting with how we first encounter music at home and school, we look at how the different musical styles and places of Leeds interact.

See some of the fascinating instruments and sound equipment made in Leeds. Explore the different venues associated with music in the city over the past 200 years. And relive some of the city’s most iconic performances through the memorabilia on display.

While the exhibition has been forced to close its doors to the public throughout most of 2020, much of the content is now featured online, and it will remain on display at Abbey House until the end of 2021.

Music:Leeds says: “Music:Leeds aims to support, promote and celebrate the music of the city, and we feel privileged to be able to deliver this commission that provides a platform for two amazing local artists to explore their sound art, uncovering a rich musical heritage of the city, connecting with such a wide variety of music creators and performers, linking to Leeds Museums fantastic Sounds of our City exhibition. Using bus routes to imagine the journey through the city’s cultures and sounds, telling the story of music in the city is inspiring and will be a brilliant way to enjoy the work.”

Abbey House Museum say “Rosie and Verity have created an immersive sonic journey that builds and expands on what we put into the Sounds of Our City exhibition, and we are delighted that it has been the inspiration for this new artwork. It complements the exhibition so well and is a heartfelt celebration of live music in Leeds which we hope will thrive again after the pandemic.”

First Bus say “Our buses connect communities across Leeds, so we’re delighted to be part of this project bringing people closer to the musical heritage of the city. We’re looking forward to hearing the results and are sure our customers will be just as intrigued to discover this added experience to journeys with us on these two popular routes.”


Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/125841992805485

Eventbrite event page: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/sonic-stops-virtual-premiere-tickets-149551074289

Hop on the virtual bus for the virtual premiere here: https://www.mixcloud.com/bettersongs/

Listen back here: http://musicleeds.com/sonicstops

Better Songs website: https://www.bettersongs.co.uk/

View the Sounds of Our City exhibition online here: https://museumsandgalleries.leeds.gov.uk/virtual-visit/sounds-of-our-city-online-exhibition/

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Frank is the website guy for Local Sound Focus. Takes a lot of photos and loves writing about new music.