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.”
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Watson was a founding member of the influential Sheffield based experimental music group Cabaret Voltaire during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Since then he has developed a particular and passionate interest in recording the wildlife sounds of animals and habitats from around the world. As a freelance composer and sound recordist Watson specialises creating spatial sound installations which feature a strong sense and spirit of place.
His television work includes many programmes in the David Attenborough ‘Life’ series including ‘The Life of Birds’ which won a BAFTA Award for ‘Best Factual Sound’ in 1996, and as the location sound recordist for the BBC series ‘Frozen Planet’ which also won a BAFTA Award for ‘Best Factual Sound’ (2012).
Watson has recorded and featured in many BBC Radio 4 and World Service productions including ‘The Wire’ which won him the Broadcasting Press Guild’s Broadcaster of The Year Award (2012). His music is regularly featured on the BBC Radio 3 programme ‘Late Junction’. He has also worked extensively for RTE Radio 1 on series such as ‘Sound Stories’
In 2013 Watson received a Paul Hamlyn Composers Award.
His installations have been commissioned by international galleries and festivals such as Sheffield Millennium Gallery, Opera North in Leeds, The National Gallery, London, The Louvre, Paris, the Aichi Triennial in Japan and Unsound in Kraków.
Here you can access images of Chris Watson. Click on images for high resolution version & please always credit author when used.
A Life in Sound
Here you can find a very helpful selection of radio progammes and soundscapes for BBC Radio 4 featuring sound recordist Chris Watson.
Bandcamp (available digital):
Various releases and other archives are available on Chris's bandcamp site
Releases (available in TouchShop):
El Tren Fantasma
CD - 10 tracks - 65 minutes
"Take the ghost train from Los Mochis to Veracruz and travel cross country, coast to coast, Pacific to Atlantic. Ride the rhythm of the rails on board the Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México (FNM) and the music of a journey that has now passed into history."
01: La Anunciante
02: Los Mochis
03: Sierra Tarahumara
04: El Divisadero
05: Crucero La Joya
08: Mexico D.F.
09: El Tajin; El dia y La noche
Artwork: Jon Wozencroft
Mastered by Denis Blackham
You can listen to ‘Veracruz’ here:
CD - 3 Tracks - 54:02
The weather has created and shaped all our habitats. Clearly it also has a profound and dynamic effect upon our lives and that of other animals. The three locations featured here all have moods and characters which are made tangible by the elements, and these periodic events are represented within by a form of time compression.
1. Ol-Olool-O -18' 00"
A fourteen hour drama in Kenya's Masai Mara from 0500h - 1900h on Thursday 17th Oct. 2002
2. The Lapaich -18' 00"
The music of a Scottish highland glen through autumn and into winter during the four months of September to December
3. Vatnajokull -18' 00"
The 10,000 year climatic journey of ice formed deep within this Icelandic glacier and it's lingering flow into the Norwegian Sea.
Listen to an extract from ‘Vatnajokull’ here
Wildeye Field Recording Trips & CoursesChris leads several trips a year in different parts of the world... these trips get fully booked very quickly, so we advise you to sign up to the Wildeye newsletter on their website
Publishing & LicensingChris Watson is a member of PRS and is published by Touch Music