Third Performance

The Bee Symphony - celebrating the bee in science and art | Bergen Cathedral 2nd June 2012 as part of Festspillene i Bergen

11pm 2nd June 2012

The Bee Symphony, consisting of recordings of bees by Chris Watson, the world's leading wildlife sound recordist, and Mike Harding (Touch) and a vocal score by Marcus Davidson will be performed, in collaboration with Håkon Matti Skrede and Kor Vest, live by Mike Harding and singers conducted by Marcus Davidson. The Symphony was originally commissioned as part of Pestival and first performed at The Queen Elizabeth Hall in London.

The Bee Symphony is a project conceived by Chris Watson originally for "Pestival" in 2009 to explore the vocal harmonies between humans and honey bees in a unique choral collaboration around and within the hives of an English country garden.

Marcus Davidson writes: "The first thing that struck me about the bees was how tuneful they were. During the day, their pitch was always based around A an octave below 440, the note we tune orchestras to. I found that the bees formed chords around the A, which varied depending on their mood. I spent time notating these bee chords, or note clusters, and as the bees sing easily in the human vocal range, I then scored the actual bee music for choir.

The sound of humans singing bees was strangely engaging. I thought it was reminiscent of Aboriginal music, perhaps showing how in tune with nature the native civilisations are. In fact, all the chords and 'tunes' in The Bee Symphony are taken from actual notes sung by the bees in the field recordings. The score was written so the choir sings exactly with different aspects of the bee song in real time, so hopefully we indeed have humans singing in harmony with bees!"

Honeybees are an essential part of the natural process. They pollenate many plants important to man including clover, which is essential to the beef cattle industry, and fruit-bearing plants like apple and orange trees which provide many essential vitamins. So the worrying reports in an as yet unexplained large reduction in numbers is of great concern. We hope that The Bee Symphony makes a small contribution to increasing awareness of this remarkable and important creature.

 

The Bee Symphony on BBC Radio 3 | 24th May 2011

 

Cross-Pollination | Touch # Tone 43

CD in digipak - 2 tracks - 48:20
Art Direction: Jon Wozencroft
Cover image: Yusuke Murakami

Track Listing:

1. Chris Watson "Midnight at the Oasis" 28:03

The piece is a 28 minute time compression from sunset to sunrise in South Africa's Kalahari desert and features the dense and harmonic mosaic of delicate animal rhythms recorded in this remote habitat. "Midnight at the Oasis" was first performed at the Marquee in Parliament Street, York, on 13th September 2007 as part of SightSonic's contribution to the BA Festival of Science. The Kalahari desert is a vast and open space where most of the wildlife is nocturnal. After sunset the dunes, grasses and thorn bushes are patrolled by an emerging alien empire - the insects. Midnight at the Oasis' presents an unseen soundscape from this beautiful and hostile environment.

2. Chris Watson & Marcus Davidson "The Bee Symphony" 20:00

A project conceived by Chris Watson originally for "Pestival" in 2009 to explore the vocal harmonies between humans and honey bees in a unique choral collaboration around and within the hives of an English country garden. Recorded live at The Rymer Auditorium, Music Research Centre, University of York, England on December 17th 2010 by Tony Myatt, using a Soundfield SPS200 microphone recorded onto an Edirol R4 (surround version), and 2 x Neumann U87 microphones via Grace Microphone Preamplifiers, recorded onto an Edirol R44 (stereo version). Composed and arranged by Marcus Davidson using recordings made by Chris Watson & Mike Harding, and diffused through a 4.1 Genelec system by Chris Watson. The Bee Choir: Dylan de Buitlear, Lisa Coates, Steph Connor, Lewis Marlowe and Shendie McMath. With thanks to Peter Boardman (the event producer), Tom Emmett, Celia Frisby & Bridget Nicholls, who originally commissioned The Bee Symphony.

Marcus Davidson writes: "The first thing that struck me about the bees was how tuneful they were. During the day, their pitch was always based around A an octave below 440, the note we tune orchestras to. I found that the bees formed chords around the A, which varied depending on their mood. I spent time notating these bee chords, or note clusters, and as the bees sing easily in the human vocal range, I then scored the actual bee music for choir.

The sound of humans singing bees was strangely engaging. I thought it was reminiscent of Aboriginal music, perhaps showing how in tune with nature the native civilisations are. In fact, all the chords and 'tunes' in The Bee Symphony are taken from actual notes sung by the bees in the field recordings. The score was written so the choir sings exactly with different aspects of the bee song in real time, so hopefully we indeed have humans singing in harmony with bees!"

Chris Watson's CD 'El Tren Fantasma' will be out in September…


Buy Chris Watson & Marcus Davidson "Cross-Pollination" in the TouchShop
www.chriswatson.net
www.marcusdavidson.net

 

Second Performance

The Bee Symphony - celebrating the bee in science and art | The Rymer Concert Hall, York 17th December 2010

The Bee Symphony, consisting of recordings of bees by Mike Harding (Touch) and Chris Watson (Autumn Watch, The Life of Birds, The Life of Mammals, Life in the Undergrowth and Life in Cold Blood) and a vocal score by Marcus Davidson (Spire) will be performed live by Chris Watson and five singers from the University of York, conducted by Marcus Davidson. The Symphony was originally commissioned as part of Pestival and performed in Queen Elizabeth Hall, on the South Bank in London.

In addition to The Bee Symphony the programme will feature other sound performances and talks by scientists on current research on bees and the current perils that they face.

The concert will be filmed and recorded in 5.1 surround-sound.

 

Pestival wins Observer Ethical Award: Conservation

Congratulations to Bridget Nicholls for winning this prestigious award. You can find out more here and see an interview with Bridget here

 

First Performance

Pestival
7:30 pm 6th September 2009

Chris Watson curates... Cross Pollination - An Evening of Experimental Insect Music

with performances by:

Philip Jeck

Marcus Davidson & The Bee Choir - The Bee Symphony

As part of this piece Chris Watson multi-channel diffusion his own recordings of bees and also those made by Mike Harding in Kent in May 2009. A story of this recording trip can be found on the Touch Radio website

Maria Jardardottir introduced by Atau Tanaka

There is a feature in The Guardian (4th September 2009) which can be read here and you can hear Chris talking on the BBC World Service here and a blog here. You can hear an interview with Chris Watson on The Strand here.

 



Touch Radio

12.06.09 - The Act of Being Stung – 08:47

Recorded 10.06.09

Mike Harding was commissioned by The Southbank Centre to record bees for The Bee Symphony, to be performed on Sunday 6th September 2009 at The Queen Elizabeth Hall, London as part of Pestival.

The Bee Symphony is a project conceived by Chris Watson to explore the vocal harmonies between humans and honey bees in a unique choral collaboration around and within the hives of an English country garden.

The Bee Symphony, with music composition by Marcus Davidson (Spire) and bee recordings by Mike Harding diffused by Chris Watson, will be performed at “Cross Pollination – An Evening of Experimental Insect Music”, curated by Chris Watson.

The recordings took place at Cherry Garden Farm, Stelling Minnis in Kent, England. The hives are owned by Olivia Grove on her seven acre small-holding. Also present were Marcus Davidson, who took the photos, and bee expert Mary Hill from Old Wives Lees. You can hear the voices of all four on the episode...

Equipment used includes 2 x dpa 4060 mics, recording onto a Nagra Ares P-ll at 48k 24bit, and of course, a coathanger and bee suit... with thanks to Jane Beese at The Southbank Centre.

You can hear a mix of this recording on WFMU's Do or DIY with People Like Us - June 24, 2009 here

 

The Bee Symphony

Marcus Davidson - Composition & choirmaster

Marcus Davidson was a chorister at Worcester Cathedral.  He read Music at Birmingham University, studying composition with Vic Hoyland, and later received a masters degree in composition at City University, London, studying with Rhian Samuel. He specialises in playing for Ballet and Contemporary Dance, and is a member of Spire, the Organ-based project by Touch. With  Spire he has composed and performed at the Hardingtonar Festival 2008 (Norway), York Minster in 2007, the Festival of Holland 2006, Fuse Leeds 2006 contemporary music festival, Gas Festival 2005 in Stockholm and La Batie Festival 2004 in Geneva.

Recent compositions include Angelica The Doorkeeper, first performed by the vocal group Voice at St. Ethelburga's Centre, London, April 2010; the sound track to Harvest of Souls and a planetarium film of artist Donald Pass's vision The Resurrection, shown at the Intech Planetarium, Winchester May 2010. He is currently writing a ballet on the theme of the Green Man.

Chris Watson - Recordings & sound diffusion

Christopher Richard Watson was born in Sheffield where he attended Rowlinson School and Stannington College (now part of Sheffield College). In 1971 he was a founding member of the influential Sheffield-based experimental music group Cabaret Voltaire. His sound recording career began in 1981 when he joined Tyne Tees Television.

Mike Harding - Recordings & executive production

Curator & Producer; Lecturer & Publisher; Author & Editor; occasional exhibitions/installations/performances…