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Chris Watson - Whispering in the Leaves

Chris Watson is renowned for his award-winning wildlife sound recording, including work on productions with David Attenborough such as The Life of Birds and The Life of Mammals. Also a founding member of the electronic music pioneers Cabaret Voltaire (1971) and the Hafler Trio (1981), Watson has since released several solo and collaborative experimental music projects on Touch.

Watson's extraordinary new work diffused through the tropical foliage of the Palm House in Kew Gardens to immerse visitors in a surround soundtrack of the wildlife dawn and dusk choruses of Central and South America. The sound pieces feature the calls and voices of thousands of species, including black howler and spider monkeys, birds, tree frogs and cicadas.


29 May - 5 September 2010 | Royal Botanic Gardens Kew | London, UK

"Chris Watson refers to himself as a sound recordist, but it seems like an understatement. He has made his instrument, the microphone, a powerful instrument for eavesdropping on wildlife and wild places to reveal sounds and environments free of human presence"
Ken Hollings, The Wire

"Watson’s piece presents the rainforest as a place that is driven by non-human rhythms – its dark, threatening nature resonates, and although it does not belong to us, we are drawn to it."
Daniela Cascella, Frieze (read full article)

"The installation's beauty is the simplicity of his offering: an opportunity to put our ears in nature's darkest and most inaccessible places"
Florence Waters, The Telegraph (read full article)

Events, workshops and talks

Events accompanying Whispering in the Leaves included workshops on sound recording with Chris Watson, a conversation between Watson and Sir David Attenborough at the Royal Institute (see edited highlights above), a debate at BFI Southbank (below) and tours of the space at Kew with curators and artists such as Heather & Ivan Morison.

Co-produced by Sound and Music and Forma
Originally commissioned by AV Festival 08

Sound and Music

Related links:

Chris Watson artist biography
Royal Botanic Gardens Kew
Also produced by Forma: Sea Ice: Voices from a Frozen Ocean

Further information for presenters of Forma projects


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