Photo: Chris Watson at Allt an t-Sionnaich
‘El Tren Fantasma’ [Touch # TO:42, 2011]
“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.”
El Tren Fantasma, (The Ghost Train), is Chris Watson’s 4th solo album for Touch, and his first since Weather Report in 2003, which was named as one of the albums you should hear before you die in The Guardian. A Radio programme was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Saturday 30 Oct, 2010, produced by Sarah Blunt, and described as “a thrilling acoustic journey across the heart of Mexico from Pacific to Atlantic coast using archive recordings to recreate a rail passenger service which no longer exists. It’s now more than a decade since FNM operated its last continuous passenger service across country. Chris Watson spent a month on board the train with some of the last passengers to travel this route. As sound recordist he was part of the film crew working on a programme in the BBC TV series Great Railways Journeys. Now, in this album, the journey of the ‘ghost train’ is recreated, evoking memories of a recent past, capturing the atmosphere, rhythms and sounds of human life, wildlife and the journey itself along the tracks of one of Mexico’s greatest engineering projects.
‘Weather Report’ [Touch # TO:47, 2003]
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.
This was Chris’s first foray into composition using his location recordings of wildlife and habitats – previously he has been concerned with describing and revealing the special atmosphere of a place by site specific, untreated location recordings. For the first time here he constructs collages of sounds, which evolve from a series of recordings made at the specific locations over varying periods of time.
Art | Science | Listening | Collaboration
29 June – 2 July 2017
University of Hull
Sound + Environment 2017 is a four day conference bringing together artists and scientists to explore the ways that sound can deepen our understanding of environments. For example, recent developments in the field of ecoacoustics are proving fruitful in assessing ecosystem change. Sound is also increasingly used to monitor built structures and to inform urban design. We can use sound for scientific and artistic exploration, to inform and expand our knowledge of environments and our relationships to the world around us.
What can we learn from each other? Sound can inform a range of innovative interventions and solutions to problems. Through exploring scientific and artistic approaches together, we hope to engage with sound in order to create complementary ways of investigating, understanding, and taking action.
Sound + Environment 2017 aims to nurture meaningful collaborations which can generate new insights. The programme will feature paper sessions and panels; workshops; public performances; installations, and interventions.
Keynote speakers will include Chris Watson and Leah Barclay
The world premiere of an original, multi-channel sound installation from internationally acclaimed and BAFTA award-winning sound artist Chris Watson. Chris has deep ties to the North of England and has travelled the world collecting sounds. One of the world’s leading recorders of wildlife and natural phenomena, Chris’ work puts “a microphone where you can’t put your ears”.
A collaboration between Hull 2017 and the University of Hull, this three dimensional sound sculpture follows the ebbing tide, from the confluence of the rivers Trent and Ouse. An enthralling journey along the Humber estuary and out into rich melodies of the North Sea, experienced at the Gulbenkian Centre using sound, space and light as evocation.
This is a durational installation piece. This installation is approx. 30 mins in length but runs as a continuous loop. Audiences can experience a single cycle or stay longer if they wish.
In May 2018, Chris will run two sessions at CAMP, a new residential arts centre in the high Pyrenees. Almost a kilometre above sea level, surrounded by snow-capped peaks, glaciers, forests and waterfalls, CAMP is a new project by Fuse Art Space. The sessions are run from a renovated 19th century hotel in the mountain hamlet of Aulus les Bains, updated to house Pro Tools studios, editing suites, multi-channel listening environments, AV classrooms, cinema, arts library, rehearsal and performance spaces, gallery, dark room, fine art studios and accommodation.
The sessions will blend field work carried out day and night in the rich natural landscape with critical listening and discussion, spatial audio recording techniques such as spaced stereo microphones, surround sound arrays, ambisonic techniques using a Soundfield ST450 microphone, Schoeps double mid side arrays and Sennheiser middle and side systems, experimentation with contact microphones, hydrophones and parabolic reflectors, surround sound playback and multi-channel systems, and decoding techniques. Peak-season trips to spectacular high-altitude locations along the frontier chain between France and Spain will yield diverse opportunities for field recording and sonic exploration.
All sessions at CAMP are all-inclusive, with room and full board included. Places are extremely limited – see https://www.campfr.com/chriswatson for more details.
The Tale: A JOURNEY OF DISCOVERY ACROSS TORBAY
A new type of arts event is coming to South Devon this September.
Chris will be presenting a brand new piece of work in Torbay, South Devon as part of The Tale. There will also be an opportunity to attend an artist’s talk and a sound artist masterclass with him.
The Tale will guide you on a journey of discovery around the coastal area of Torbay – from the streets of Torquay, through hidden coves and historic harbours, to the quarry of Berry Head Nature Reserve.
Along the way, you’ll encounter artworks and performances by artists of international acclaim, made especially for Torbay. Inspired by the ideas of writer Philip Hoare, whose boyhood experiences of Torbay shaped his future, The Tale offers the chance to experience the hidden stories, sounds and dreams of the bay like never before.
An adventurous arts event for explorers of all ages.
The Tale will take place over three long weekends in September: 8-10 Sept, 15-17 Sept, 22-24 Sept 2017.
Tickets: £15.00 – £22.50
Under 16s go free!
Booking and info: www.the-tale.co.uk
Image credit: Warren Orchard
The Tale is produced by Situations in association with organisations and groups across Torbay and is funded by Arts Council England through an Ambition for Excellence Award. We also gratefully acknowledge the support of the
Jerwood Charitable Foundation, Unlimited Impact, The Space, Ernest Cook Trust, Australia Council and Norwegian Arts Council.
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.
This course will focus on all factors of working with environmental sound – recording, production, decoding and critical analysis. Taking place in the forests, mountains and high-altitude plains of the Haute Couserans, with field trips to some of the regions most spectacular locations, the course will cover:
Fieldcraft and microphone techniques
Spatial audio recording techniques such as spaced stereo microphones, surround sound arrays, Ambisonic techniques using a Soundfield microphone ST450, Schoeps double mid side arrays and Sennheiser middle and side systems
Experimentation with contact microphones, hydrophones and parabolic reflectors
Surround sound playback and multi-channel systems
Listening sessions and discussion of critical analysis
Technical operation and specifics of location recording equipment
The sessions will be accompanied by optional outdoors activities led by CAMP crew, including guided mountaineering, visits to local beauty points, and downtime to hang out, relax, enjoy the local food and wine, and learn informally from Chris, the CAMP crew, and your fellow students. Following the course, we will invite students to submit work for release on Language, our in-house field recording label.
2-5pm – donations and all faiths welcome
London Buddhist Centre
51 Roman Road
London E2 0HU
020 8981 1225
Chris Watson will give a talk on his work and perform “Okeanos”, an underwater journey from Antarctica to the Arctic, using 4 x Genelec 8050 speakers in immersive surround sound.
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
William Basinski & James Elaine
Keith Fullerton Whitman
Catherine Christer Hennix
Experience immersive live cinema in the Tanks
On the fifth night of the BMW Tate Live Exhibition Carlos Casas presents Sanctuary 2017, a site-specific infrasound environment open to the public during the day which will transition to an immersive live cinema experience. Inspired by the myth of an elephant graveyard in Sri Lanka, Sanctuary grows out of Casas’ wider research for Cemetery, an expansive film project initiated in 2007 which brings together footage he has been shooting in locations across the globe with field recordings by renowned sound artist and musician Chris Watson.
Featuring a film and light design by Carlos Casas, live sound by Chris Watson, and infrasound engineering by Tony Myatt, the live cinema performance Sanctuary segues from a projection to a spatial sound experience. Part nature documentary, part experimental fiction, the narrative follows the journey of an elephant, his mahout, and a group of poachers following their trace into the darkness of the night. By enabling visitors to tune their senses to infrasound communication throughout the day, the live completes a unique sensory testing ground for encounters with other species.
Inspired by our iconic Finback Whale, the Museum of Zoology ran a series of workshops collecting voices from Cambridge and beyond to create a soundtrack for this amazing skeleton in the newly built Whale Hall of the Museum of Zoology. With the help of choir leader Rowena Whitehead and Jo Shaw and Tizzy Faller from the Department of Music, we reached out to over 1000 people in schools, museums and other spaces. Chris Watson, award-winning wildlife sound recorder and sound artist, has combined these with his recordings of the world’s oceans into a magical, atmospheric journey around the world. Here is the finished piece, which you can hear in the Whale Hall from late 2017.
Friday 20 January
18.00 – 21.00
Inspired by Picasso’s circle in Montmartre in the first decade of the 20th century, the Gallery becomes an artists’ colony featuring a wild cross-pollination of ideas, music, poetry, performance, art, film and dance. For one evening only, step inside the mind of Picasso where Everything You Can Imagine is Real…
Curated and Produced by Martyn Ware for Illustrious.
Zarina Bhimji, Georgina Brett, Peter Coyle, Eclectic Method, Vanessa Fenton, Feral Five, Sarah Hopkins, Aaron Horn, IN-IS, Marcus Lyon, Di Mainstone, Tracey Moberly, Nikky Norton-Shafau, Obsrvtry, Radiophonic Workshop, Ian Reddington, Cherub Sanson, Scanner, John Shuttleworth, The Spinning Yarns, Chris Sullivan, Toby Thompson, Gabriel Ware, Martyn Ware, Chris Watson,Tim Wheater, White Noise, Luke Wright
Download programme here
Supported by Goldman Sachs
Soundscape system and headphones by Bowers & Wilkins
Part of the programme of events complementing Picasso Portraits.
…In which, as we enter a new year, our friends and collaborators look back on the past twelve months and share their moments;
“In the early 1980’s whilst I was exploring Northumberland for recording locations I discovered a book by Alfred Watkins, first published in 1925. The Old Straight Track, together with the collected works of Tom Lethbridge, gradually illuminated a pathway for me through the Borders landscape as I discovered for myself that intangible sense of spirit and place…”
We’re pleased to announce the annual Wildeye overseas sound recording field trip / workshop which will be led, as usual, by Chris Watson and Jez riley French. Plus, our special guest, Jana Winderen, will join us for a day or so to show us some of her approaches and talk about her work.
We will be staying in the region of Västergötland, close to Vänern, Sweden’s largest lake and home to an abundance of bird and sub-aquatic life. We’re also close to some other important environments such as the Göta river and canal, Vänern, Kinnekulle, Hornborgasjön, a smaller lake famous for its colony of cranes, and of course vast areas of forest and national parks.
Field Recording by Chris Watson
Orford Ness on the eastern coast of England is the longest shingle spit in Europe. For twelve miles this lichen-colored tongue of shifting sand and pebbles curls out into the North Sea. The Ness is a remote and isolated place, an uninhabited no-man’s-land, for decades occupied solely by the military for practicing the dark arts of war.
Chris Watson has won the Location Sound category in the 2016 Resolution Creative Awards. The Resolution Awards recognise quality and innovation in professional audio and your facility has been judged to be outstanding in these respects by the best informed readership in the industry. Congratulations.
With Pip Norton and Chris Watson
This two-day course explores techniques of editing audio files on a computer and mixing soundtracks. Through demonstration and working on practical tasks you will learn how to create, edit, manipulate and improve sound recordings, and also how they can be effectively combined and mixed together to produce a soundtrack. This could be for a television or radio programme, for installations, movies, video games, CD/audio-file releases or for your own enjoyment.
The course includes the creation and production of Foley sound and sound effects, how to record the perfect voice over/narration, and covers the growing area of multi-channel mixing.
It is suitable for those who have already taken our Introduction to Wildlife Sound Recording course, or those who already have some experience of audio work. It will also be invaluable for video editors and producers who oversee the post production process.
The course is taught by Pip Norton, a highly experienced re-recording mixer and post production specialist, and Chris Watson, one of the world’s top wildlife sound specialists who regularly works for the BBC.
The location is Whitwell Hall Country Centre in the centre of Norfolk, UK. Accommodation is shared rooms (or there are nearby bed and breakfasts/hotels if you prefer), and there will be excellent home-cooked food.
It is recommended that you bring your own laptop/computer with editing and mixing programs installed and any sound recording equipment you may have. (If you have yet to invest in any audio software, one recommendation is to try Reaper – this is an excellent digital audio workstation which you can try free for 60 days, and if you wish to continue you can buy a license for just $60 (about £40)).