When the 2nd Chris Watson CD Outside the Circle of Fire was released, many people commented upon the proximity of these close-up wildlife recordings to the sounds that were being explored in so-called ‘laptop music’. We thought we’d invite some artists who we were in contact with with to make their responses, giving them carte-blanche to do what they liked with Chris‘ source material.

Mika Vainio was the first to respond in May 1998. His DAT arrived the same week as a presentation of Touch works at “The School of Sound”, a symposium dedicated to the art of using sound alongside moving image. Walter Murch, Peter Kubelka and Mike Figgis were amongst the many involved. Mika’s track might be a coda to the intense soundscapes of Edward Artemyev in Tarkovsky’s “Stalker”.

Philip Jeck used two recordings from Outside the Circle of Fire, “Male capercallie display” and “Red rumped tinkerbird”. Hazard chose “Deathwatch beetles” and “Spotted hyena”. Fennesz transformed the “Mozambique Nightjar”, feeding its call through a home-made valve amplifier.

Cassarina: “thick hurdles of thorn and scrub enclose the domestic circles, every one and every animal must be in by night fall. The herders drive all before them through the edges of village twilight - voices carrying on a strong draft of temperature inversion. There is a rush, a cool anticipation, the hillside is left to the leopard.” [Mera, Rajasthan - March 2002]

In AER’s track, “a goat herd is being shepherded into its night-time pen near Argostoli on the island of Cephalonia. The recording is a travesty of the careful microphone techniques outlined by Watson in Stepping into the Dark – immediately you (quite) delicately approach grazing goats, they zoom off suddenly in the opposite direction. Greek legend speaks of the goat-owl, who may be a ‘goatsucker’: the owl swoops down to suck on the milk of a she-goat. Watson’s recording of tawny owls created strange ‘beating’ patterns with these apprehensive, jingle-belled beasts once I got them home.”

“Night & Dawn” was the last recording made for this project. For the very end of the CD, Chris Watson contributes another new recording. “Timber wolves respond quickly to changes in their environment. This pack has learned to associate the sound of a rifle shot in the forest with the opportunity of a forthcoming meal. They gather in the creeping darkness using scent and their awesome voices.”

We received many other contributions and must thank S.E.T.I., People Like Us, and Oren Ambarchi for their hand in the end result.

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photo: Parliament Hill, London, during the partial eclipse of 11 August 1999