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
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
From Ross Island to Galapagos to the mythical isle of HyBrasil and beyond, world renowned sound recordist Chris Watson teams up with Writer/Presenter Luke Clancy, Composer Irene Buckley and Actor Kathy Rose O’Brien to journey across an atlas of remote islands.
Islands fuses documentary and drama to make a journey not usually possible – especially in these days of the pandemic – as Chris and Luke imagine stepping across the frozen lava at Ross island, Antarctica; taking in the rarefied atmosphere of the Alcedo volcano on the Galapagos islands and listening to an incredible symphony of Bearded Seals under the ice at Svalbard, Norway. The programme merges chronicles of island life by Luke, with Chris’s stunning archive of natural history, accompanied by a haunting soundtrack created by Composer Irene Buckley.
The programme draws on live performances by the team at Skibbereen Arts Festival (2020) and at the International Features Conference hosted by RTÉ Documentary On One (2020).
Islands was funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland with the Television Licence Fee.
Writer: Luke Clancy
Actor: Kathy Rose O’Brien
Sound Recording and Sound Design: Chris Watson
Sound Supervision: Ruth Kennington
Composer: Irene Buckley
Producer: Kevin Brew
Series Producer: Kevin Reynolds
Group Head Drama & Comedy: Shane Murphy
On land and underwater, animals use sound to communicate. This is against a rising tide of man-made noise. What happens if you can’t hear or be heard? Can anything be done?
Wildlife sound recordist and sound artist Chris Watson talks to Michael Berkeley about how his favourite music is inspired by the natural world.
Part One: The winds catching the conifers – and the secrets of the dawn chorus, Aug 26 2019. Chris Watson, president of the Wildlife Sound Recording Society, joins David Oakes in this episode of Trees A Crowd
Part Two: If a podcast is recorded in a forest, and no one is around to hear it… Sept 9 2019. Chris Watson, president of the Wildlife Sound Recording Society, joins David Oakes in this episode of Trees A Crowd
A signalman on a remote stretch of East Yorkshire railway is visited by a lone traveller in this drama-documentary written by poet Ross Sutherland. Inspired by a Charles Dickens ghost story, and featuring nature recordings by renowned wildlife recordist Chris Watson.
The Oxmardyke Gate Box is one of the last in the UK to use antiquated mechanical bells to carry semaphore-style messages up and down the line. Soon this system of “absolute block signalling” will pass into history, as computers take over. The bells, like the humans who listen for them, will no longer be needed.
In this feature fusing fact and fiction, the poet Ross Sutherland visits Oxmardyke to meet Dave Beckett, one of the last operators to use the bells. From their elevated position, the pair gaze out over the hinterland near the muddy Humber estuary. It’s an area of villages with Anglo-Saxon names: Gilberdyke, Broomfleet and Saxfleet, with remains of the monastery where the Knights Templar would return after international travel. The flat, reclaimed land has an eerie quality, accentuated by a strange local phenomenon known as a temperature inversion (where high density cold air becomes trapped by warm wetter air) causing sound to carry further, meaning passing trains loom larger and echo further than they ordinarily would.
Writer: Ross Sutherland
Contributor: Dave Beckett
Producers: Jack Howson and Joby Waldman
Sound Design: Chris Watson and Steve Bond
A Reduced Listening Production for BBC Radio 3
Wildlife recordist Chris Watson begins a three-part journey into the sonic environment of the ocean, celebrating the sounds and songs of marine life and investigating the threat of noise pollution
Does a second feel the same for a fly, a bird, or a swordfish, as it does for me? Geoff Marsh drills into the science of time perception within and between species.
24.00 – 00.30
Sound recordist Chris Watson captures the changing soundscape from dawn to dusk in the Kalahari Desert in south western Africa. As the light fades, you can see very little but hear everything; from the close up sounds of insects to the far-carrying contact calls of spotted hyenas. Producer Sarah Blunt.
Made for 4 Extra. Wildlife recordist Chris Watson examines some of the ways technology has changed the radio we listen to, from early experiments in sound to the podcast explosion.
BBC Radio 4 New series begins 10th July 2018 for 12 weeks
Broadcast Tuesdays 1102 and repeated on Mondays at 2102
PIKE – 10th July 2018. Brett Westwood journeys into dangerous waters to explore our relationship with the fearsome and predatory Pike. Wildlife sound recordings Chris Watson. Producer Sarah Blunt
NARWHAL – 14th August 2018. Brett Westwood explores our relationship with an Arctic Legend, the Narwhal. This Unicorn of the Sea is not only extraordinary in appearance, but tantalising difficult to study! Additional sound recordings Chris Watson. Producer Sarah Blunt
SHORT WORKS – As I Walked Out One Morning in May
BBC Radio 4 Fri 27th July 1545, rpt Sun 30 July 0030
Death meets the Lady in this short ghostly story written and narrated by Paul Evans which is inspired by a 19th Century ballad, local folklore and the sounds of a woodland. The singer is Elizabeth Counsell. Sound Recordings Chris Watson. Produced by Sarah Blunt.
THE COMPASS – Living with Nature
BBC World Service
The world as you’ve never heard it before. Wildlife sound recordist Chris Watson presents a guide to the sounds of four very different global habitats; the Plains, Desert, Mountain and Forest and explores the relationship between these soundscapes in Kenya, Namibia, Norway and India, the wildlife and the local people. Producer Sarah Blunt
25th July – Plains
1st August – Desert
8th August – Mountain
15th Aug – Forest
Graham Duff interviews Chris Watson, about his groundbreaking work with the experimental music groups Cabaret Voltaire and The Hafler Trio, his career as one of the world’s most celebrated wildlife recordists, his albums of field recordings released on the Touch label and his new site specific sound installation ‘No Man’s Land’. Contains extensive examples of both Watson’s music and field recordings. Headphone listening recommended throughout.
There’s another chance to hear A River of Steel which was first broadcast in 2016, on BBC Radio 4 on Tue 1 May at 11.02am and Monday 7 May at 21:02.
Chris Watson returns to Sheffield, the city of his birth to follow the course of its rivers across landscape and time in a tale of industrial development, little mesters and steel blades. Producer Sarah Blunt.
You can listen to Chris’s hour-long podcast on ABC here:
BBC Radio 4, Tuesday 6 June at 11.02am, repeated Monday 12 June at 9pm
The first of a new series of Natural Histories includes an interview and recordings by Chris Watson. A murmuration of starlings is one of our great British wildlife spectacles and never ceases to inspire and amaze as Brett Westwood and Tony Whitehead discover in a reed bed on the Somerset Levels. The programme also includes sound recordings by Tony Whitehead. Producer Sarah Blunt
Sarah Walker with Chris Watson
Sarah’s guest this week is one of the world’s leading sound-recordists, Chris Watson. Chris started out as a musician, he was a founding member of the influential Sheffield-based experimental music group, Cabaret Voltaire, but he soon put the microphone to other uses enjoying a career recording sound for film, tv and radio. He has specialised in recording wildlife and natural phenomena, striving, in his words, to put the microphone where you can’t put your ears. He has contributed to a number of David Attenborough documentaries in the Life and Frozen Planet series and has released albums of his field recordings. As well as discussing his work and life, Chris will be sharing some of his favourite classical music by composers including Britten, Messiaen and Felix Mendelssohn.
BBC Radio 4, Fri 14 April, 3.30pm
Another chance to hear this sound portrait in which Chris Watson captures the changing soundscape of an oak woodland in Northumberland as the seasons pass.
Producer Sarah Blunt