Touch40: Chris Watson’s “Namib”
eight years of field recordings from the Skeleton Coast
Chris Watson has been recording hard-to-reach places for decades. A founding member of the influential Sheffield based experimental music group Cabaret Voltaire during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, Watson has since developed a particular and passionate interest in recording the wildlife sounds of animals and habitats from around the world. For the weekend of April 29 through May 1, Indexical will reconfigure its top-of-the-line Meyer Sound audio system into a multichannel listening setup, presenting Watson’s recent work “Namib” in immersive, spatialized audio.
Sliding-scale ticket reservations are available, and capacity for each listening is limited to ensure an optimal environment for all audience members. The listening sessions are approximately 30 minutes in length.
Thank you to the Zicarelli Family Foundation for sponsoring this special event. For more information about sponsoring special programming at Indexical, please contact Executive Director, Andrew C. Smith.
Watson was a founding member of the influential Sheffield based experimental music group Cabaret Voltaire during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Since then he has developed a particular and passionate interest in recording the wildlife sounds of animals and habitats from around the world. As a freelance composer and sound recordist Watson specialises creating spatial sound installations which feature a strong sense and spirit of place.
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, and as the location sound recordist for the BBC series ‘Frozen Planet’ which also won a BAFTA Award for ‘Best Factual Sound’ (2012).
Watson has recorded and featured in many BBC Radio 4 and World Service productions including ‘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’. He has also worked extensively for RTE Radio 1 on series such as ‘Sound Stories’
In 2013 Watson received a Paul Hamlyn Composers Award.
His installations have been commissioned by international galleries and festivals such as Sheffield Millennium Gallery, Opera North in Leeds, The National Gallery, London, The Louvre, Paris, the Aichi Triennial in Japan and Unsound in Kraków.
Extending over 2,000 mikes down the Atlantic coast of West and South Africa, the Namib desert is an ancient and unique landscape; a vast mobile ocean of sand where humans mostly fear to tread.
‘Namib’ is a multi-channel composition created from location recordings made over the last eight years from the Skeleton coast to remote interior dunes.
The piece reflects a timescale beyond our reckoning; it aims to compress 50 million years of evolution into a 20 minute surround soundscape.
‘Namib’ will trace the sound shift created by a dense Atlantic fog bank as it swirls inland before sunrise and transforms the acoustics around the huge sandstone outcrops along the bone dry banks of the Kuiseb river. This event brings moisture and life to the flora and fauna whilst the reduced visibility allows the listener to tune into one of the few spaces left on our planet not smeared with noise pollution.
The Namib is a place to listen back in time, above and below the surface. The piece reveals the deep rhythms and sound of an evolving sand dune, from individual grains to moving mountain as it creeps in advance of the prevailing winds.
After dark, the dunes, cliffs and valleys are patrolled by an emerging alien empire. Insects vibrate and sing into the night air – a vital and dangerous practice as advertising for a mate also sends signals to the acute auditory senses of predators, large and small, that stalk amongst the stillness of the sands. [Chris Watson, January 25th 2022]