“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.
You can hear an interview with Chris recorded over Skype for the forthcoming Touch.30 live event in New York City in September 2012.
Listen to the interview [1:02:53]
Marcus Davidson will be conducting “The Bee Symphony” and a new piece, the second in a trilogy, “Sea Polyphonies” on September 15th (Chris will not be present). You can hear an interview with him, also conducted by Katja, here.
Broadcasting Press Guild Award for The Wire
The Guardian reviews the broadcast:
Sunday 2 January, 2011
Chris Watson visits The WIRED Lab project in Australia, which is inspired by the work of biomedical scientist and composer Alan Lamb, who has long been fascinated by the extraordinary sounds created when the wind and the weather interact with telegraph wires or fencing cables stretched across the landscape. Here, Chris not only meets Alan and his colleagues Sarah Last and Dave Burraston to find out more about the history and evolution of their work with wire structures, but also records for himself the music of the wires.
Presenter Chris Watson
Producer Sarah Blunt
2/8. The team asks if modern life is damaging our ears. Jem records a centipede’s footsteps.
The team asks whether modern life is damaging our ears. Dallas explores how safety-conscious scientists are putting the noise back into driving, Liz learns to like the sound of being sick, and Jem sets out to record the sound of a centipede’s footsteps.
The programme is produced in partnership with the Open University.
Chris features in the film recording insects inside an anechoic chamber at the University of Salford.
You can see a clip from the programme here.
This award goes to the person, team or organisation whose work has made an outstanding contribution to any aspect of the industry — through broadcasting, production or technical sectors within the region and beyond. Their work, either in front of the camera or behind the scenes, should have made a significant and lasting impact on audiences and viewers in the North East and the Borders — and on a wider stage. The judges are keen to invite nominations from as broad a spectrum of talents as possible. Evidence of recent exceptional achievement(s) should be included. Nominations for the Centre Award were sent in confidence to the Chair of the Judges.
The Judges said:
Tonight’s recipient is described as “one of the most modest, unassuming people you will ever meet.” That counts a few of us out!
Our winner is one of the world’s foremost wildlife sound recordists, whose major credits include productions like THE LIFE OF BIRDS (which won him a BAFTA in 1998), THE BLUE PLANET, THE LIFE OF MAMMALS and more recently the sensational FROZEN PLANET.
He started his career at Tyne Tees TV in the 1980’s, and was soon developing a passionate interest in recording the sounds of wildlife, which led to major innovations in recording natural sound in often difficult, dangerous and challenging environments; an enrichment of sound recording techniques in the industry generally, and raising the bar in the understanding of the sounds of the natural world.
Although wildlife has always been his main focus, he’s also expanded into experimental sound-work — for example the sound installation he created for Constable’s ‘Cornfield’ at the National Gallery in London.
Our winner is known for his generosity in sharing and explaining his techniques, and his commitment to the importance of training and inspiring others.
Guest Presenter: PETER SALMON
Winner: CHRIS WATSON
Chris has contributed sounds to the Irish film, Silence (Harvest Films, 2012)
Jameson Dublin Film Festival | Thurs 23rd February 2012
Lighthouse Cinema 1, Smithfield, Dublin | 8:45pm
You can watch an interview with Chris using BBC iPlayer here
Inside Out is a regional magazine with Chris Jackson. We follow Darlington football club’s battle to survive, and meet the man who put the sound to David Attenborough’s Frozen Planet.
This programme is available to view until 8pm February 6th 2012
“Last year I interviewed sound recordist Chris Watson on the subject of noise for a piece exploring the use of birdsong at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool…”
The magnificent pictures that our specialist cameramen produce for the BBC Natural History Unit’s stunning wildlife documentaries are a high point of UK television. But, as always, the pictures are pretty useless without the sound that goes with them. CHRIS WATSON is one of the world’s leading location sound recordists, with a remarkable portfolio of work including ‘The Frozen Planet’, ‘The Life of Mammals’ and ‘The Life of Birds’.
On January 12th the RTS, in association with Newcastle University, is promoting an evening event with Chris that will demonstrate the lengths he goes to capturing the remarkable sound of the natural world – or as Chris puts it, ‘putting a microphone where you can’t put your ears’.
For more details of this un-missable event, go to www.rts.org.uk/netb. The event is free, but registration is essential through our Eventbrite booking service.
The Poetry of Radio
The Colour of Sound
By Seán Street
This book explores the idea of the poetic in radio and sound as well as the concept of pure sound as poetry, both historically and within a contemporary perspective, examining examples of makers and works internationally.
Chris Watson’s sound quiz for Springwatch (BBC2 tonight at 7pm). Answers tonight!