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Helen Ottaway

Helen Ottaway

(United Kingdom)
Helen is a composer, sound artist and curator based in the South West of the UK. She is the lead artist for Artmusic which creates, produces and promotes collaborative, participatory and site-specific art work. Finding inspiration in beauty, statistics, coincidence and a sense of place, her work embraces theatre, choreography, mapping and field recording.

I have always been interested in the physical aspects of music making, particularly the moment when gesture becomes sound. My early compositions with the writing and performing group 3 or 4 Composers were presented in a theatrical format with particular focus on the physicality and gestural qualities of performance. With Artmusic, formed in 1999, I have continued to collaborate with artists from other disciplines creating site specific and interactive work in urban and rural landscapes for festivals and venues across the UK and abroad.

Commissions include Salisbury Cathedral, BBC2, Bath Film Festival, Cork 2005 European Capital of Culture, Oerol Festival in the Netherlands and Inside Out Dorset and my work has been performed in many locations including the ICA, London, a disused quarry in East Mendip and a remote Dorset woodland.

In 2017 I was invited to take part in the Sura Medura International artists residency in Sri Lanka. Coming soon after the death of my mother, the residency provided the opportunity to explore ideas of loss and absence in my work, producing a series of sketches towards a large scale work - a new kind of requiem. I began writing for a hand wound musical box, creating scores of ever increasing length, the most recent being 'Wind and Unwind', for musical box and voice with a 15 metre punched paper score, commissioned by Inside Out Dorset for Dorset Moon in Sherborne Abbey, July 2019.

Also in 2019 I curated LISTEN a season of sound art at Black Swan Arts in Frome, Somerset working with local, national and international artists and culminating with hosting Sound Walk Sunday in the West Country.

In 2020 I was awarded a 'Develop Your Creative Practice' grant by Arts Council England. In 'Walking with Words' I collaborated with writers Amy McCaulay (following in the footsteps of T. S. Elliot beside the Thames in London), Rosie Jackson (with whom I'm developing a walking requiem for performance in 2023) and Ralph Hoyte (developing his poem 'Winscombe to Priddy Nine Barrows' into a geo-located sound walk and other poetic/musical forms)


To hurry about in search of something, to take a short walk, to hike. “Send out horses, skir the country round.” (Shakespeare, Macbeth.)from the Dictionary of Newfoundland English (University of Toronto Press, 1982).

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