The BBC has today announced Soundscapes for Wellbeing, a project which aims to connect audiences with nature through creative programming on BBC Radio 3, 6 Music, BBC Sounds and BBC Two’s Winterwatch, as well as through new access to the BBC Sounds Effects archive. It is also inviting audiences to take part in a major UK-wide nature experiment which seeks to unearth the potential of virtual nature experiences to boost our wellbeing.

Launched today:

  • The Virtual Nature Experiment, commissioned with the University of Exeter involves award-winning sound-recordist Chris Watson and composer Nainita Desai, and explores people’s responses to digital nature content.
  • BBC Sounds Effects digital archive relaunches as an interactive platform, featuring over 33,000 sounds, with 17,000 new nature sounds, and a new Mixer Tool feature – allowing users to now download sounds, and create, mix and share their own soundscapes for free.
  • Special music & nature themed programming across BBC networks and programmes from January 25th and throughout February – BBC Radio 3 Breakfast with Petroc Trelawny and a Slow Radio edition with Gillian Burke, BBC Sounds with a specially curated Mindful Mix with 3D nature sounds by Mary Anne Hobbs, 6 Music with Lauren Laverne, Shaun Keaveny and Radcliffe & Maconie and BBC Two’s Winterwatch.

The Covid-19 pandemic has led many to seek refuge in nature and reconnect with the natural world. As poor mental health continues to rise in the UK, and early research suggests the COVID-19 pandemic could worsen this trend, substantial evidence advocates that spending time in nature can help to reduce stress and mental fatigue. Academic studies have also demonstrated the potential for music to induce positive emotions.

As part of Soundscapes for Wellbeing, the BBC and the University of Exeter have commissioned ‘The Virtual Nature Experiment.’ By joining approaches from the arts, natural history, and science, this experiment will explore the emotions people feel when they engage with natural environments via varying online and broadcast formats, from rich visual scenes, to immersive natural sound recordings and big budget wildlife documentaries. Both legendary sound recordist Chris Watson and award-winning film composer, Nainita Desai, have created soundscapes for the experiment.

From today, audiences are invited to take part in the 10-minute experiment from home, and can in turn, help scientists understand how best to bring the benefits of nature to people who can’t easily get outside. Using a laptop or phone device, participants will be asked to play one of several short videos and answer a series of questions.

New to the BBC Sound Effects digital archive are 17,000 new nature sounds, added to the 16,000 sounds already available, well as a new Mixer Tool function, allowing users to create and share their own Soundscapes. Available for personal, educational or research purposes, the digital archive allows audiences to escape aurally around the world from the comforts of their living room. The new sounds range from what is widely regarded as the first nature recording ever made on wax cylinder by an eight-year old Ludwig Koch in 1889, to an encounter between a Mountain Gorilla and David Attenborough.

Launched this morning on BBC Radio 3’s Breakfast, a wide array of distinctive programming across the BBC, including Radio 3, BBC Sounds, 6 Music, Winterwatch on BBC Two, will explore the magical melding of music, nature and well-being further – providing solace and uplifting audiences’ spirits during lockdown. Highlights will include Radio 3’s Slow Radio with Winterwatch’s Gillian Burke creating her own soundscape from the BBC Sound Effects Library, Lauren Laverne’s 6 Music Breakfast show speaking with a range of influential guests from the world of nature, including the founder of Black Girls Hike, and Chris Packham interviewing one of the creators behind The Virtual Nature Experiment, Alex Smalley, PhD Researcher at the University of Exeter, for Winterwatch on BBC Two.

Rebecca Sandiford, BBC Music Commissioning Executive says: Soundscapes for Wellbeing is a collaboration involving teams right across the BBC, offering imaginative ways for audiences at home to immerse themselves in the natural world – something we all need right now. Our UK-wide research with the University of Exeter invites people to help scientists create robust insight into the benefits of digital nature experiences, and audiences can investigate the effects for themselves by exploring our newly launched BBC Sound Effects archive and listening to the creative content on radio, TV and digital specially produced for the project.”

Alan Davey, controller of BBC Radio 3 says: “Helping listeners enjoy the healing powers of both music and nature has always been vital to Radio 3. This is especially true in a time of lockdown, frantic news cycles and uncertainty. The perspective and space to think that music and nature offers couldn’t be more important for our mental well-being, and offers something genuinely meditative and restorative. We hope our immersive programming across the BBC as part of Soundscapes for Wellbeing will continue to bring the riches of music and nature to life, particularly for those who have been unable to experience the escape of the open air this past year.”

More information on Soundscapes for Wellbeing here: