sea pies and a dokie’s egg: an avian calendar for amble, by alec finlay & chris watson
Release date: 1st December 2022
5 tracks – DL only
1. Sea pies and a Dokie’s egg
sea pies and a dokie’s egg, an avian calendar for amble, accompanies a shelter, the dokie’s egg, designed by Alec Finlay, made by Alistair Letch. The audio artwork is accompanied by a calendrical poem by Alec, with contributions from Paul Morrison (RSPB) and Chris Watson, identifying the bird species.
A dokie is a local byname for a guillemot or auk, collected in newton by the sea by Katrina Porteous; a sea-pie is an oyster catcher.
The shelter installed at Amble is a hybrid design inspired by the dokie’s pear-shaped egg and lapstrake hull of a coble fishing boat. Alec was invited to create the artwork for ‘Amble Bord Waalk’, a bird trail commissioned by Amble Development Trust which opened to the public in Winter 2022.
The Dokie’s Egg, Amble, Alec Finlay in collaboration with Alistair Letch and Chris Watson; photo by AF, 2022
Having undergone gentle cleaning and restoration, The Swing has revealed previously hidden details. These immerse you in a woodland scene in where you can almost hear the birds sing. Chris Watson, one of the world’s leading wildlife recordists, has responded to this and created a special composition for the Wallace Collection that explores the painting through sound. Here is Chris, discussing his work:
‘Gazing into The Swing [Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s (1732–1806)], I was immediately drawn to the painting’s sheer vivacity and imagined the alarms of a nearby blackbird on discovering the scene. The foreground colour and detail are represented by the quiet flow of water from below and the gentle creak of rope carrying the amused young woman to and fro.
The surrounding woodland is full of birdsong; a mistle thrush, robin, nuthatch and several leaf warblers contribute to a rich chorus. From the depths of the forest behind, red deer stags bellow in rivalry to compete for the hinds. To conclude, a nightingale sings from cover, an expression of desire to draw down a partner from above.
The woodland chorus was recorded in the Forêt de Chaux, the nightingale song is from the nearby Arc et Senans and the red deer were recorded at Légrillou in the Pyrenees’.
A breathtaking journey through four natural habitats. Each shaped, scarred and transformed by extreme weather events.
Michael Gordon’s cult 1997 piece ‘Weather’ for amplified string orchestra is brought to life in this musical tour-de-force – a brand new collaboration between Manchester Collective, seminal sound artist Chris Watson, and Spanish filmmaker Carlos Casas.
You’ll be transported from an East Asian rainforest to the world’s oldest desert; from an Icelandic glacier to the sunken medieval town of Dunwich off the English coast… Combining live performance, real-world sound and film, WEATHER is an artistic record of threatened environments that is urgent, haunting and unforgettable.
Award-winning field recordist Chris Watson has worked on some of the BBC’s best-loved documentaries, including David Attenborough’s Frozen Planet and The Life of Birds. For this project, Chris has revisited his extensive archive to create an immersive sound installation which accompanies the string orchestra’s hour-long performance:
“During my travels, I have recorded in many habitats around the world that are under threat from climate change, capturing the sounds of places that are disappearing. This project has given me the opportunity to work with these sounds to create an ambient, multi-channel installation that places the audience where my microphones were when I made the original recordings. Every sound you will hear has come from the places I have visited – the voices of those habitats speak to the future generations, who might not be able to experience them for themselves.”
WEATHER is created by Manchester Collective and co-commissioned with the Southbank Centre
More information here: manchestercollective.co.uk/weather
In the garden of his parents’ home was a birdhouse. “I could see it from the kitchen window, and I remember watching the birds and imagining the sounds they were making. It was like watching a silent movie,” he says. “This little tape recorder had a microphone attached to it, and I suddenly realized that I could set it up to record these birds. Playing these recordings back was a real transformative moment. I was taken to a place where we can never be. I was listening to the sounds of another world—and that just really blew me away listening to the rhythm in the birdsong.”
The world premiere of Voci del Vento, an immersive aural journey from Pole to Pole
By Chris Watson and Claire M Singer
Union Chapel, London
7:15PM Saturday 17 Sept 2022
In a world-premiere, award-winning sound recordist, Chris Watson (David Attenborough’s long-term collaborator on the ‘Life’ series and recent collaborator on Chernobyl by Oscar winner Hildur Guðnadóttir) and award-winning composer Claire M Singer (known for her experimental approach to organ and her critically acclaimed releases on Touch) will present their new, multichannel diffusion work for field recordings, organ, the London Contemporary Orchestra and Choir.
“I’m genuinely excited by the prospect of collaborating with Claire and the LCO in creating a global journey through a range of acoustic landscapes” – Chris Watson
Pioneer study on solastalgia employs sound as a research tool and launches podcast for listening to the landscape along with its stories.
Each podcast episode by Land Body Ecologies tells an intimate true story from a local community across the globe to highlight how ecosystem health and mental health are interconnected.
The first of five stand-alone episodes will tell the story of Finland’s longest river, and two sisters’ journey as they reflect on how the damming of the river shaped their lives.
Land Body Ecologies Podcast
Episode I: The Free River
Release date: 22 June 2022
Available online on www.landbodyecologies.com/podcast, as well as on Spotify, Google Podcast and Apple Podcast.
Chris Watson has been commissioned by Wye Valley River Festival UK to produce a piece of work titled ‘A Journey of 3 Realms’ – a spatial audio dream journey presented in the beautiful surroundings of the iconic Tintern Abbey from 27th May – 5th June 2022. With sound spatialisation by Tony Myatt the piece will take the listener from sunrise within the abbey grounds to the waters of the river Wye, flow into the mighty Severn Estuary, out into the deep Atlantic Ocean and south west to the Caribbean Sea.
In 2022 Touch (Chris Watson’s label and publisher) will celebrate forty years of activity; so we thought we’d organize a few events to mark this achievement, not only to reflect on the long journey but also cast our eyes on what the future might hold for the creative arts. This multi-channel sound event in Santa Cruz, California, takes place April 29th-30th 2022.
You can read an interview with Chris about this piece here
Extending over 2,000 miles down the Atlantic coast of West and South Africa, the Namib desert is an ancient and unique landscape; a vast mobile ocean of sand where humans mostly fear to tread.
‘Namib’ is a multi-channel composition created from location recordings made over the last eight years from the Skeleton coast to remote interior dunes.
The piece reflects a timescale beyond our reckoning; it aims to compress 50 million years of evolution into a 20 minute surround soundscape.
‘Namib’ will trace the sound shift created by a dense Atlantic fog bank as it swirls inland before sunrise and transforms the acoustics around the huge sandstone outcrops along the bone dry banks of the Kuiseb river. This event brings moisture and life to the flora and fauna whilst the reduced visibility allows the listener to tune into one of the few spaces left on our planet not smeared with noise pollution.
The Namib is a place to listen back in time, above and below the surface. The piece reveals the deep rhythms and sound of an evolving sand dune, from individual grains to moving mountain as it creeps in advance of the prevailing winds.
After dark, the dunes, cliffs and valleys are patrolled by an emerging alien empire. Insects vibrate and sing into the night air – a vital and dangerous practice as advertising for a mate also sends signals to the acute auditory senses of predators, large and small, that stalk amongst the stillness of the sands. [Chris Watson, January 25th 2022]
‘Namib’ will be introduced by Mike Harding and is part of a series of events celebrating 40 years of Touch.
For many of us, isolation is disconcerting and challenging but for wildlife sound recordist Chris Watson, it is something he actively seeks, so he can fully immerse himself in a place and capture its unique sounds in his recordings. In this series, Chris recalls five extraordinary quests to locations around the world in search of isolation and wild sounds. Producer Sarah Blunt
This year’s programme features a huge, world-class surprise concert. Icelandic composer Hildur Guðnadóttir (winner of an Academy Award for Best Original Score for the film Joker) invites audiences to Peiraios 260 for a live performance of her Grammy-winning soundtrack for the acclaimed HBO television series Chernobyl. Recorded in a decommissioned nuclear plant in Lithuania, Guðnadóttir’s haunting soundscapes will now be recreated live against the backdrop of the Festival’s beloved industrial venue at Peiraios 260.
We are investigating the fine art of Field Recording in the latest issue of Electronic Sound and we have a superb double CD – more than two hours of brilliant music – to accompany the magazine.
So what’s the allure of capturing the sounds of the world around us? Why do people do it? How do they go about it? And what do they do with their recordings? We’ve talked to many of our most innovative field recordists for this month’s cover feature, including Haiku Salut, Erland Cooper and Langham Research Centre. We meet one-time Cabaret Voltaire man Chris Watson, a leading practitioner of the art for decades, and Simon Fisher Turner has some great tips for anybody who is just starting out. We also get a history lesson courtesy of Lawrence English from the Room40 label and have a rummage around the 4,500 field recordings on the Cities And Memory website.
Elsewhere in this issue, the new LoneLady record is irresistible, as is our interview with her. Richard Norris drops in for a chat about the three albums he’s releasing (yes, that’s right, three whole albums) and we hook up with Sunroof, aka Mute boss Daniel Miller and ace producer Gareth Jones. Oh, and you might need to sit down for this next bit, because we have let a guitarist in. It’s OK, though, because it’s the most excellent Will Sergeant from Echo & The Bunnymen, whose side hustles totally belong in our world.
We’re bundling this month’s Electronic Sound with ‘A Beginner’s Guide To Field Recording’, a double CD which we’ve put together with the help of the Cities And Memory website. The two discs feature more than two hours of beautiful music, with contributions from the cream of the current crop of field recordists, including Chris Watson, Kate Carr, Roberta Fidora, Leafcutter John, Elif Yalvaç, Simon Fisher Turner, Erland Cooper, Lawrence English, Haiku Salut, Langham Research Centre, Georgia Rodgers, Dave Clarkson and many more besides. ‘A Beginner’s Guide To Field Recording’ is an astonishing listen, so miss this one at your peril!
As with all of our releases, this CD is strictly limited and only available to Electronic Sound readers, so make sure you grab your copy right away.
SHORTLY BEFORE SUNRISE, THE SPIRITS OF THE NIGHT DANCE THEIR LAST DANCE
KONZERT IM MORGENGRAUEN
CHRIS WATSON, MAURICE RAVEL, SALVATORE SCIARRINO, VIRGINIE DÉJOS
Chris Watson Morgenchor (2021) spacial sound piece (World Premiere)
Maurice Ravel Gaspard de la nuit
Salvatore Sciarrino De la nuit
Shortly before sunrise, the spirits of the night dance their last dance. When Maurice Ravel wrote his ghostly pieces Gaspard de la nuit he was constantly confronted by the imminent death of his father. His walk along the border between this life and the next moves back and forth between seriousness, grotesque and mythical fantasy, but it is characterised most of all by an almost superhuman, transcendental virtuosity.
The young French pianist Virginie Déjos not only confronts Ravel’s ghosts but also the spirit behind these ghosts: in a short composition by the Italian Salvatore Sciarrino entitled De la nuit, he stirs up scraps of memories from Ravel’s Gaspard, dreamily and at breakneck speed, only to make them vanish again in a moment as if into nothingness.
Both of these compositions are embedded in a concert installation commissioned by the Ruhrtriennale from the British sonic artist Chris Watson – a founder member of the electro-industrial band Cabaret Voltaire and a sound recordist on David Attenborough’s famous nature films for the BBC – who will use soundscapes recorded shortly before, during and after sunrise to draw horizontal and vertical axes through the historical strata past and present of the Ruhr and its sister region in the North of England and connect them both through sound.
An installation at Snape Maltings 2 June – 31 August 2021
Relic is an installation by the artist Maggi Hambling and sound recordist Chris Watson, presented by Britten Pears Arts at Snape Maltings.
Each artist in their own practice responds to the melting of the polar icecaps: Hambling through her series of Edge paintings first shown in 2017, and Watson through his location sound recordings. In this collaboration, the audience is confronted with the gradual, man-made disaster through expanded senses of sound and vision. As if on the threshold of a dream, chaos clashes with order, night meets day, primordial forms rise out of the dissolving icecap to confront the visitor with our destruction of the planet.
After co-founding the influential Sheffield industrial band Cabaret Voltaire in the 1970s, Chris Watson turned to field recording. He has had an illustrious career as a sound recordist with both solo work and commissions for organizations like National Geographic and the BBC Natural History Unit. His solo albums for Touch include Weather Report (2003) and El Tren Fantasma (2011), both classics in their genre…
BBC Radio 3
Saturday 30th January, 11:45am| Monday 1st February, 10:00pm
Kate Molleson talks to Scottish writer and poet Jackie Kay about the extraordinary life of the pioneering blues singer Bessie Smith, and asks what Bessie’s blues can tell us a century on.
Kate also hears from American composer Meredith Monk about the recurring nature of the big themes of her work, from plagues to dictatorships, and we hear about the piece she’s currently working on, Indra’s Net – 10 years in the making and a work dedicated to humanity’s relationship with nature.
Plus, as part of the BBC’s ‘Soundscapes for Wellbeing’ project, we look at how natural and musical soundscapes can affect mental health, including a groundbreaking study by the University of Exeter called ‘The Virtual Nature Experiment’, which explores how digital experiences of nature might impact wellbeing. Kate is joined by Alex Smalley from the University of Exeter, the sound recordist Chris Watson, and composer Nainita Desai.
Producer: Matthew Dover
The international passengers edge slowly towards Bruxelles Midi, their faces pressed against the train windows as they pass Station Chapelle, not knowing whether they are there yet. Is this where we get off? No. This is a ghost station, so the engine staggers onward, wheels grinding, stop/start, giving way at signals to the faster traffic coming in the opposite direction.
Hearing not so much the sound of the suburbs but the unvoiced anxiety of those who fear they might miss their onward connections, to Paris, Antwerp, maybe beyond even Amsterdam, passengers reach up for their luggage…
Feeling that they’ve mislaid something, they look around, above and below but cannot work out what it is maybe they have lost. Something’s been taken away, leaving uncertainty or worse, but most shrug and start the next phase of their journey. Things have to be done.
We start the New Year…
Next is Chris Watson’s contribution to Touch: Displacing, the continuing annual subscription designed to reflect and describe our current state and raise funds for the contributing artists. Chris Watson’s contribution is an extension of his ongoing exploration of mechanical sounds, a forward momentum from the “Deepcar” recording on “Touch Movements” (Folio 002, 2017) and an echo of his earlier work with Cabaret Voltaire.
Chris writes: “Bruxelles Nord, Central et Sud, a ghost station on busy tracks with no departures. Long past electromagnetic bell pulses signal the transit of nocturnal freight, the wagons battering a loaded beat through the underpass. Thalys, TGV and ICE, displaced international passengers on empty platforms, voices searching for an urban fox or lost human soul.”
Recorded in Brussels 2018. Produced in Newcastle upon Tyne November 2020
Wildlife recordist Chris Watson and spatial audio sound artist Prof Tony Myatt begin a three-part journey to the Sea of Cortez hunting for the song of the largest, and possibly loudest, animal that has ever lived – the blue whale. It’s also an animal that Chris has never managed to record. Will this trip change that?
According to Chris Watson, the man behind your favorite wildlife soundtracks, we’re just becoming better listeners