Chris Watson, Whispering in the Leaves, 2008. Photo: Louise Hepworth. Courtesy of AV Festival 08

Chris Watson, Whispering in the Leaves, 2008. Photo: Louise Hepworth. Courtesy of AV Festival 08

Chris Watson, Whispering in the Leaves, 2008. Photo: Louise Hepworth. Courtesy of AV Festival 08

Chris Watson, Whispering in the Leaves, 2008. Photo: Louise Hepworth. Courtesy of AV Festival 08

Chris Watson at the Opening of Whispering in the Leaves, 2008. Photo: Louise Hepworth. Courtesy of AV Festival 08

Chris Watson performed a live sound mix of his new commission Whispering in the Leaves within the environment of the Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens.

AV Festival 08 commissioned this major new work by renowned sound recordist Chris Watson. Visitors to the Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens could experience the extraordinary soundtrack of the South American rainforest diffused through the tropical foliage of this enclosed botanical environment, which is home to over 2,000 flowers and plants. At hourly intervals throughout the day, a surprising and dynamic soundscape of dawn and dusk choruses was transmitted for a 15–20 minute duration, approximately the time taken in the rainforest for the transitions from darkness into light, and from daylight to dark.

Shifting between the musicality of primate calls and birdsong and backed with the shimmering wall of insect sounds, Watson's sound mixes are derived from an extensive archive of wildlife and field recordings made on location in the tropical rainforests of South and Central America. An unseen soundscape of thousands of species including black howler and spider monkeys, tree frogs, cicadas, and diverse birdlife, communicates a myriad of information; as these calls, voices and other sounds are transmitted back and forth, as each creature broadcasts its presence to others.

Following its exhibition at AV Festival 08, Forma toured the work to: Art:City, Perth International Arts Festival from 18 February – 7 March 2009 and Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, London from 29 May - 5 September 2010.

Biography
Chris Watson is a sound recordist specialising in natural history, with a particular and passionate interest in recording the wildlife sounds of animals, habitats and atmospheres from around the world. His work as a wildlife sound recordist includes both television documentaries and experimental music collaborations. Watson's sound recording career began in 1981 when he joined Tyne Tees Television. He has released three solo albums of field recordings: Outside the Circle of Fire, Stepping into the Dark (which won an Award of Distinction at the 2000 Prix ARS Electronica Festival in Linz, Austria), and Weather Report.

His work as sound recordist for BBC TV includes The Life of Birds for BBC TV – BAFTA Award for Best Factual Sound 1998 (David Attenborough), The Life of Mammals for BBC TV 2001/2 (David Attenborough), and Big Cat Diary for BBC TV 1998-2002 (Simon King/Saba Douglas–Hamilton/Jonathan Scott). In 2006 he 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".

Credit
Commissioned by AV Festival 08 and Forma. Produced and toured by Forma.

Chris Watson Live

FREE

Thu 6 March 2008, 8.30-9pm

Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens

Burdon Road
Sunderland SR1 1PP
sunderlandmuseum.org.uk