Chris Watson, who has worked on Attenborough’s Frozen Planet and Life in the Undergrowth, shares a remarkable insight into sound recording, some exclusive clips – and his feelings about music in wildlife shows.
“…The most extraordinary sound of the week was actually something so common and heard almost every day even by those mired in the inner city. Chris Watson, the sound recordist who to great effect spends days and nights outdoors making wildlife programmes, took his recording equipment into Newcastle’s Central Station. One evening, at dusk, after all the commuters had gone home, he picked up a single melody, the song of a blackbird. As Watson explained, ‘The song rolled down on to the track and filled the southern entrance to the station,’ echoing through the vast Victorian amphitheatre. This is why we keep listening — odd moments of pure sound, instant connection.” [Kate Chisholm]
You can hear an interview with Chris on Danish radio SNYK (in English)
SNYKradio is a podcasting service based in Copenhagen. They cover contemporary music and soundart.
Last weekend Chris Watson performed at The Copenhagen Field Recording Festival, they met up with him and talk to him about the art of listening.
By Ian Youngs
Chris Watson went from influential 1970s band Cabaret Voltaire to recording sound for David Attenborough’s wildlife documentaries. Now the leading audio recordist has captured the sound of Sheffield for a “sound map” of his home city.
Chris Watson hears things that other people do not.
Well, we hear the same things. But Chris Watson listens…
Insight Into Sound and video clip can be found at Southern Star
CREATE A SENSE OF PLACE
Geosonics is a colloboration between legendary field recordist Chris Watson and Soniccouture.
Hundreds of hours of recordings, from some of the worlds most extreme and inhopsitable enviroments, combine to form a library of rare sonic artefacts that cannot be found anywhere else.
Using this unique collection as a starting point, we created a wealth of sound design material – waves and textures which, when layered and combined with Watson’s original recordings, create the most fluid, organic soundscapes ever heard.
The product page where you can buy the instrument
NB: Here is the intro discount code : YA6ARGHW
This needs to be entered into the discount code field at checkout, and the product will be reduced to £99 / €110 / $120. This offer will end 24th August 2013
FULL PRICE £119 / €129 / $120
On 6 May David Attenborough will launch Tweet Of The Day, Radio 4’s new year-long celebration of the wonder and poetry of birdsong. Just before the Today programme, early risers will be treated to a different call or song of a British species, followed by a fascinating story of ornithology specific to the tweet in question.
In Britain there are now 596 species on the official bird list, of which 286 are recorded as rare. The BBC will be collaborating with brilliant wildlife sound recordists such as Chris Watson, Geoff Sample and Gary Moore to track down the songs of some of these much-loved birds, from the nightingale to the swift, the greenfinch to the garden warbler. The series will begin with the cuckoo – the song of the male is familiar to many, but how many of us can say that we have seen the bird itself?
“Technically it’s so beautiful; it’s beautifully recorded. I think he does what an artist should do, which is take something every day and make you hear it or see it differently. I could listen to this anytime of day or night, I could listen to it heartbroken or grieving… so beautiful, so inspiring. It paints pictures in your head and yet it’s barely music. This record can make you see beauty in the everyday.”
Easter Eggs Live
Sunday 31 March
The first of the two main programmes as Mark Evans explores the weird, wonderful world of eggs. The eggs are due to hatch. Jimmy Doherty examines bugs, and Lucy Cooke investigates frogs.
Easter Eggs Live
Monday 1 April
The second of the two main programmes exploring the wonderful and often weird world of eggs, from clown fish to emus. Mark Evans updates viewers on the animals that have hatched overnight.
“At 1800h local time I fixed a Sennheiser MKH 8040/30 middle and side rig against a sun bleached log by the edge of a small muddy pool. This was the only surface water I could find on the floor of a steep sided valley formed by the ephemeral river Kuiseb on the western fringe of the Namib desert in Namibia, southwest Africa.”
The Financial Times:
Sound recordist Chris Watson tunes into the Suffolk soundscape that inspired the composer
One moment we are listening to widgeon ducks whistling from the wetlands to our right. The next we are stopped in our tracks by a wren sounding the alarm at our approach. The sound recordist Chris Watson and I are a couple of miles north of the Suffolk seaside town of Aldeburgh, and already the quietness of our rural surroundings has revealed all sorts of sounds. “Silence is oppressive but quietness isn’t,” says Watson. “Silence doesn’t exist in the natural world.” Next Friday, Watson’sIn Britten’s Footsteps premieres as part of Aldeburgh Music’s year-long Britten Centenary celebrations. The piece is a season-by-season introduction to the habitats familiar to Benjamin Britten, reprising the sounds that surrounded him on his “composing walks”, and serving as an aural route-map today. [Andrew Clark]
The use of sound world in 100 albums
“Le field recording, ou enregistrement de terrain, est une pratique apparue logiquement à la fin du xixe siècle avec l’invention de systèmes d’enregistrement, de plus en plus portables. Peu à peu, le studio perd de sa fatalité et l’homme peut partir par les chemins pour capter quantité de musiques et de sons. Les premiers à se lancer sont les ethnomusicologues et les audio-naturalistes. Les uns sont en quête des musiques de divers peuples de la terre, vivant souvent loin des grandes villes et de leurs facilités logistiques. Les autres souhaitent quant à eux conserver la trace des sons de la nature.”
3 Tracks – 50:09
Chris Watson writes:
“During December 2000 several significant storm fronts developed across the North Sea and Scandinavia. Benny remarked to me that he had recorded some of these on the Baltic coast and proposed a collaborative cd project based around our mutual interests in the rhythms and music created when the elements combine over land and out to sea.
We spent the next few years gathering recordings on our respective coastlines and islands during the very active weather windows during the autumnal equinox and winter solstice. This was focused around our following one particular cyclonic system, which veers over Snipe Point on Lindisfarne to the Isle of May in the Firth of Forth, and finally descends upon Öland and Gotland where Benny listened in with a favourite pair of Sennheiser omnidirectional microphones.” Newcastle upon Tyne August 2006
Cobra Mist, for which Chris made the location recordings, will be showing in 971 Horses and 4 Zebras, co-curated by artist Jordan Baseman and Gary Thomas (Animate Projects). An exhibition runs at Wimbledon Space, Wimbledon College of Art, from 2 November – 9 December 2012 and tours to CAST (Contemporary Art Spaces Tasmania), Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne, Australia, and The British School at Rome, in 2013.
The films from the exhibition will also be showing at Tate Modern, Starr Auditorium on Thursday 29 November 2012 at 18.30.
Silence, a new Irish feature film is getting its international premier at the BFI London Film Festival. It is screening at the ICA on Thursday 18th October at 18:45 and on Saturday 20th at 4pm at Screen on the Green as part of the London film Festival. Touch artist Chris Watson was one of the contributing sound recordists and also contributed sounds to the film.
The feature film follows Eoghan, a sound recordist who is returning to Ireland for the first time in 15 years. The reason for his return is a job offer: to record landscapes free from man-made sound. His quest takes him to remote terrain, away from towns and villages. Throughout his journey, he is drawn into a series of encounters and conversations which gradually divert his attention towards a more intangible silence, one that is bound up with the sounds of the life he had left behind.
It has received a very positive review from ‘Time Out’ in England. Wally Hammond wrote “gently mesmeric, seductively mournful, surprising and unquiet meditation on man, memory and landscape”. It was also the subject of a 6 column spread in the latest issue of ‘Sight and Sound’ magazine written by Frances Morgan.
framework:seasonal issue #3, autumn 2012
Chris Watson: Sunrise in the Sukau Rainforest
2.5 hour high resolution audio dvdr
The framework:seaonal series of fund-raising audio releases continues with a very special issue #3 – the great chris watson, who, we’re sure, needs no introduction amongst framework listeners, has donated a single-take, 2.5 hour field recording from the rainforests of borneo, recorded and published at its full length at higher-than-cd audio quality. this stunning recording has never before been released, and has been donated by the artist in support of framework radio. it is available only through framework, in exchange for your donation of €20 of more on the framework website.
Each dvdr is slow burnt onto the highest quality taiyo yuden archival discs, and is hand-stamped with the custom-made image of a borneo-native mushroom, in keeping with the previous issues of the seasonal series. each is housed in an offset and folio printed sleeve from a local printing press, on paper from a local papermill, both here in the southeast estonian town of räpina. the insert as well is printed on additive-free paper from the räpina mill. these audio dvdr’s will play in any standard dvd player, or on any computer.
Recorded during October 2011 by the river Kinabatangen, Sabah, Borneo from 0430h using Sennheiser MKH 8040/30 middle and side array to a Nagra ARES Pll recorder at 48Khz 16 Bits .wav
“The Sukau rainforest is a relatively narrow strip of primary forest either side of the banks of the river Kinabatangen in Sabah, Borneo. Access to the forest floor is very difficult as there are no trails, however at the back of the lodge where I was staying there was a narrow old and decaying boardwalk that led, snake like, through the dense undergrowth and out into what felt like another world. Each morning for over a week I left my lodge around 0400h and set off carefully along a zig zag pattern of soft and splintered planks into the velvet darkness. Either side of the red glow from my head torch fireflies and other unknown bioluminescent insects blinked and flashed their alien languages whilst dead ahead the small piercing red reflecting eyes of hunting bats streaked, missile like, directly towards me. On several mornings my GPS guided me to a favourite looping curve at the furthermost point of the 2Km trail where I could stop and fix my mikes in a tree whilst trying to bat off the myriad host of mosquitos that quickly find anything warm blooded that is stationary. I rigged and set away the recording before quietly moving off, my ears straining to hear the distant songs of gibbons, the shrieks of macaques and the low whistle of a pitta. Sunrise, such as it is 30m below the canopy, is also accompanied by the slow drip of condensation percolating down through the grey green gloom from a canopy 30m above as the forest is slowly revealed.” (Chris Watson)
Sunrise in the Sukau rainforest is published by Touch Music
To order your copy go to the framework website and donate €20 or more via the donations bar on the right, or click the ‘donate’ button below and do the same. we’ll be in touch to confirm the best shipping address. copies of previous issues of framework:seasonal are also still available – donate €20 or more per issue and let us know which ones you’d like!
As the dust settles on another year of uninspired Mercury Music Prize nominations, The Liminal have decided upon a selection of 12 albums that far better represent the variety of extraordinary music being produced in Britain today…
Chris Watson – El Tren Fantasma
The title of the sound recordist Chris Watson’s latest CD, borrowed from a Mexican film from the 1920s, translates as “The Ghost Train”. The name makes reference to the fact that the recordings were made while he was working on the BBC show Great Railway Journeys, where he took a ride on one of the very last passenger trains which ran from Mexico’s Pacific coast to the Gulf on the other side, a journey that since 1999 can no longer be made. However, as you listen to it while studying a map of the route, from Los Mochis in the west, through Chihuahua and Mexico City to Veracruz on the east, you begin to trace a number of branch lines which lead off from the main line. You find yourself making connections, hitching your wagon to a number of different trains, in order to chase down some fascinating – and very resonant – ghosts from Mexico’s history.