Recording an island in the mist with Chris Watson
Music at Trinity presents Chris Watson
Tuesday, February 23, 2016, 6:15pm
Venue: Printing House
Chris Watson is one of the world's leading recorders of wildlife and natural phenomena, and for Touch he edits his field recordings into a filmic narrative. For example. the unearthly groaning of ice in an Icelandic glacier is a classic example of, in Watson's words, putting a microphone where you can't put your ears. He was born in Sheffield where he attended Rowlinson School and Stannington College (now part of Sheffield College). In 1971 he was a founding member of the influential Sheffield-based experimental music group Cabaret Voltaire. His sound recording career began in 1981 when he joined Tyne Tees Television. Since then he has developed a particular and passionate interest in recording the wildlife sounds of animals, habitats and atmospheres from around the world. As a freelance recordist for film, tv & radio, Chris Watson specialises in natural history and documentary location sound together with track assembly and sound design in post production.
Born in 1953 in Sheffield where he attended Rowlinson School and Stannington College, Watson was a founding member of the influential Sheffield based experimental music group Cabaret Voltaire during the 1970’s and early 1980’s. His sound recording career began in 1981 when he joined Tyne Tees Television. Since then he has developed a particular and passionate interest in recording the wildlife sounds of animals, habitats and atmospheres from around the world. As a freelance composer and recordist for Film, TV & Radio, Watson specialises in natural history and documentary location sound together with sound design in post production.
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. More recently Watson was the location sound recordist with David Attenborough on the BBC’s series ‘Frozen Planet’ which won a BAFTA Award for ‘Best Factual Sound’ (2012). Watson has recorded and featured in many BBC Radio productions including; ‘The Ice Mountain, ‘The Reed Bed’, ‘Jules Verne's Volcano’, ‘The Ditch’, ‘The Listeners’ and ‘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’.
In 2000 Watson received an Award Of Distinction for his Touch CD ‘Outside The Circle Of Fire’ in the Digital Musics section of the Prix Ars Electronica by ORF in Linz, Austria. In 2006 Watson was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Technology degree by the University of the West of England "In recognition of his outstanding contribution to sound recording technology, especially in the field of natural history and documentary location sound".
In 2007 Watson devised the art project ‘Wild Song At Dawn’ at Liverpool's Alder Hey Children's Hospital, using sound recordings made by himself, patients and hospital staff to relax and calm other young patients as they received medical procedures and treatments.
2009 ‘Faster Than Sound’ and Aldeburgh Music residency to compose and perform ‘Longshore Drift’ in the Britten Studio. The work responds to the rhythm and sounds created by erosive tidal action and the powerful currents which sweep down the Suffolk coastline.
In 2010 FORMA Arts & Media commissioned Watson to create the multi channel sound installation ‘Whispering In The Leaves’ for the Palm House at London’s Kew Gardens. Watson was also invited to compose a soundtrack to John Constable’s ‘The Cornfield’ and make a live presentation of the piece in front of the painting in the National Gallery, London. He was also commissioned by the British Film Institute to compose a soundtrack to ‘Underground’ a 90 min. silent film made by Anthony Asquith in 1926 for release on DVD (2013)
Another work titled ‘The Bee Symphony’ was commissioned by the insect festival ‘Pestival’ at the Queens Hall, Southbank in London. The work was a collaboration with arranger Marcus Davidson to create a vocal work performed live with a 5 person choir and surround sound recordings of honey bees. In 2011, Watson was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of The Arts in London. Also in 2011 Le Louvre, Paris, commissioned Watson to create three sound installation works and a live performance piece ‘Oceanus pacificus’ as a response to the exhibition curated by the Nobel Prize winning writer JMG LeClezio. Also in 2011 Touch releases Watson’s CD ‘El Tren Fantasma’; a collage of location sounds and musique concrete composed from field recordings Watson made during a train journey across Mexico on the state railway system FNM. In 2012 Vital Arts at Barts and the Royal London Children’s Hospital in Whitechapel commissioned Watson to devise and compose a series of sound installations for the new Roof Garden (2013). Watson also ran sound workshops and composition classes in the hospital classrooms for small groups of young patients wishing to create and mix their own soundscapes for the Roof Garden.
In 2012 ‘Faster Than Sound’ and Aldeburgh Music commission ‘In Britten’s Footsteps’ for the Benjamin Britten Centenary during 2013. The piece consists of original location recordings made throughout the four seasons along the regular ‘composing walks’ taken by Britten during which he revised and edited his morning’s compositional work. The final piece was diffused live in the Britten Studios at Snape Maltings on February 1st 2013 with a twenty channel Ambisonic sound system and featured Britten’s Cello Suite #2, Op 80 – Cianccona performed live by Oliver Coates.
In 2013 Chris Watson released 'In St Cuthbert's Time' album on Touch as part of The Sounds of Time project at IAS, Durham University. In October he performed with Hldur Gudnadottir & Tony Myatt at Lincoln Cathedral as part of Frequency Festival.