Whispering in the Leaves

Whispering in the Leaves
Saturday 29 May – Sunday 5 September 2010
Kew Gardens, London
Produced by: 
Sound and Music & Forma (Originally commissioned by AV Festival 08)

Chris Watson’s Whispering in the Leaves is an extraordinary sound installation that immerses visitors to Kew Gardens’ Palm House in the dawn and dusk choruses of the Central and South American rainforests.

Alongside the installation, part of the Summer Festival at Kew Gardens, a programme of special performances, workshops, guided tours and talks gives you the chance to find out more about sound, the environment and biodiversity.

Whispering in the Leaves can be experienced at hourly intervals in the Palm House, Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, from 29 May to 5 September 2010.

At dawn in the rainforest, the spectacular chorus of primates and birds heralds the waking of an evocative, colourful world, while at dusk the familiar calls die away and are replaced by a night-time soundscape of reptiles and insects that is alien and wondrous to human ears.

Chris Watson is a sound recordist and musician specialising in natural history, renowned for his award-winning wildlife work with David Attenborough on productions such as The Life of Birds and The Life of Mammals. Watson was also a founding member of the electronic music pioneers Cabaret Voltaire (1971) and the Hafler Trio (1981), and has since released music projects on Touch.

Whispering in the Leaves features two sound pieces – Dawn and Dusk – composed by Chris from memory using his extensive archive of on-location recordings in Central and South American rainforests.

Designed specifically for the Palm House, Whispering in the Leaves is the audio equivalent of 3D cinema. Visitors will be immersed in a dynamic, spatial soundscape of primate calls and birdsong, backed with a shimmering wall of insect sounds. Some of the species heard are currently unknown to humans. Visitors will experience the heard but never seen.

Diffused through 80 speakers, the two compositions will be transmitted at hourly intervals throughout the day - Dawn in the morning and Dusk in the afternoon. Each lasts for 15-20 minute durations – the approximate time it takes for the transitions between darkness and daylight in the dense tropical vegetation.

Ants, courtesy of Ryszard Laskowski
Picture of Chris Watson on cliff courtesy of Chris Watson
Tree Frog, courtesy of Ryszard Laskowski
Howler Monkey in Brazil, courtesy of Steven Francis
Picture of the Palm House courtesy of the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew

In this project

Further Reading

A full biography for Chris can be read here

Weather Report was named in The Guardian's '1000 Albums to Hear Before You Die' List. 
It can be bought from Touch: www.touchshop.org

Co-Produced by

Sound and Music

Originally commissioned by AV Festival 08

Venue Partner

Kew Gardens


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