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Prix 1987 - 2007

ORF Oberösterreich

Outside the Circle of Fire
Chris Watson

A distinction goes to Chris Watson, the sound recordist, for his CD Outside the Circle of Fire. The Jury appreciated how Watson´s radio-linked audio-events had arrived at electroacoustic composition from the other direction, signal processing.

Alternative Press (US): "French conceptual artist Marcel Duchamp once predicted that the artist of the future would point at what already exists and it would become art. Many sound artists have taken a philosophically similar outlook, using found sound, plagiarism and media manipulation. Former Hafler Trio and Cabaret Voltaire collaborator Chris Watson takes a different approach to this aesthetic, preferring to let the world around us do its own talking. Stepping is an engaging collection of field recordings made at exotic locales while Watson was doing location sound for various documentaries. He presents a rich variety of environments ranging from flies near the Mara River in Kenya, to nesting rooks in an old churchyard, to fishing bats in Venezuela. Animals and the elements take center stage throughout the disc. It seems strange to have any human´s name on the sleeve at all. Watson has wisely chosen to leave these sounds raw and realistic, making this about as close as most of us will get to a world tour. Use your ears and drift. (Joseph Cross, Wired, UK)

Watson´s lead instrument is the tape recorder. After working with Cabaret Voltaire and The Hafler Trio, he became sound recordist for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. He has since joined a film and video production company, working for BBC wildlife documentaries and occasional feature films. "In recent years I have noticed that some of the particular locations I have visited had an overall characteristic-sparkling acoustics, a special timbre, sometimes rhythmic or transient animal sounds". Watson's interest goes beyond the brief of the programmes he works on: he takes the chance to explore "the intangible sense of being in a special place-somewhere that has a spirit-a place that has an atmosphere". The 13 recordings on Stepping into the Dark contrast a windswept forest in Glen Cannich with the gathering conversations of rooks roosting in a churchyard in Northumberland. Other atmospheres include the heat and wall of sound found on the River Mara in Kenya, fishing bats on a mangrove pool in Venezuela, the ritual dance of snipe at dusk in the Northern Hebrides - a hydrophone at 5m. depth in the Moray Firth captures the signature whistles and clicks of botlenose dolphins. But it is not simply a question of capture: nor do the atmospheres settle softly into the genre of New Age-style environments. "These recordings avoid background noise, human disturbance and editing. They are made with sensitive microphones camouflaged and fixed in position well in advance of any recording or animal behaviour. The mics are cabled back on very long leads or radio-linked back to a hiding place or concealed recording point. Sites can be discovered by chance, by researching features on a map, in history through anecdote, and also in conversation with local people about their feelings (both for and against) particular places. Tom Lethbridge identified places for several spirits within the local topography of an area. I suspect this also includes flora and fauna, the time of day, the elements and the season