My favourite place, by Erland Cooper, composer

Where is it?

Stromness, Orkney.

Why do you go there?

I was born and raised in Orkney. I grew up in the harbour town of Stromness.

How often do you go?

I’m based there in my head and heart, but I don’t live there now. I think a lot of folk who leave the islands still call it home and I still say home, even though I have maybe been longer south in my London studio.

I was in Orkney last week and I try to get there as much as I can, every quarter at least. I want to get there a wee bit more.

What makes it special?

My folks moved up to Orkney in their twenties and had six kids. It is the elements that dictate the terms on an island. The weather controls the flow of the day and, in particular, the way that the air, sea and land work together is quite remarkable.

You can never take the same photograph twice because the light changes so quickly. Many poets have written about these elements - I have tried to do the same in my music.

A small community is held together by the people and the stories that they tell. Looking out to these tiny islands as the sea mist - or haar - rolls in, it is not hard to imagine where the myths of phantom islands like Hildaland or Hether Blether come from.

The Herald: Erland CooperErland Cooper (Image: free)

What’s your favourite memory?

Running up the white, sandy beach of the Bay of Skaill and playing in and out the sand dunes with my siblings. We also played inside the ancient site of Skara Brae. You could do that when I was a peedie breek - or little child.

As kids we would be lying in the beds, putting trinkets on the cabinet shelves and looking out the windows, imagining fishing boats, whales, monsters and selkies.

Who do you take?

I was pleased to take my adopted dog with me, who I rescued through a charity. Mirage is a long-legged Saluki, who looks more like a horse. Seeing him run free on the beaches. He was cutting quite the figure around the Ring of Brodgar and across the Bay of Skaill. That was a treat.

What do you take?

A film camera, my recording device for field recordings and a couple of books to write music in.

What do you leave behind?

Orkney, particularly the sea, is the one true reset. I feel like I’m able to discard the pace, thoughts and hyperactive energy that has built up inside me as I produce, create and bring ideas into life.

Sum it up in five words.

Air. Sea. Land. Darkness. Light.

What other travel spot is on your wish list?

I would love to go to Sicily and to also explore Pompeii. I like ruins because it makes me think about time.

The Essay: Erland Cooper’s Phantom Islands is on BBC Radio 3 and BBC Sounds from April 1-5, airing at 9.45pm. The five-part programme begins on Monday with a guide to the myth and magic of Hildaland, one of Orkney's vanishing islands