BBC sound recordist Chris Watson’s top ten sounds… ever!

A pathway between trees in a green forest

BBC sound recordist Chris Watson’s top ten sounds… ever!

Words Jude Rogers
Photographs India Hobson

Sound expert Chris Watson is one of the world’s leading recorders of wildlife and natural soundscapes. Here he shares his thoughts on why we should stop and listen to the world around us and reveals his all-time top ten things to listen to…

Chris Watson has been on a mission to make us stop and listen to the world since his childhood. A founding member of the band Cabaret Voltaire, he is now one of the most respected sound recordists in the business. Talking exclusively to contributing editor Jude Rogers, he insists that the more your do it, the deeper, more powerful the experience. And what’s more, ‘It’s so easy to do, too,’ he says.

While lamenting the general state of sound recording in his own industry (‘Put the television on tonight and watch any natural history documentary, and nine out of ten of them will have dreadful music smeared all over them,’ he says), he’s undeterred in his mission to bring the sound of the world around us into our homes. With that in mind – and conscious of the usual music magazine space-filling trick of asking people to name their favourite songs, we instead set Watson a unique challenge: from an entire lifetime dedicated to listening to the world, what have been his favourite sounds so far?

Birds flying over the River Derwent, Derbyshire
Lady Canning’s Plantation, Yorkshire

Chris Watson’s definitive top ten sounds…

1. Whimbrel flight song, Iceland
2. Icebergs splitting at Jokulsarlon, Iceland
3. My grandson Freddie’s laughter
4. Dawn chorus in Kielder forest, Northumberland
5. Aquatic invertebrate songs in Exhibition Park lake, Newcastle upon Tyne, via my DPA hydrophones
6. Dry grasses singing in a warm breeze, The Temple of Demeter, Eluesis, Greece
7. Summer insect chorus in the forests of Estonia
8. Blackbird song in my back garden, Newcastle upon Tyne
9. Arucaria forest chorus, Patagonia, Argentina
10. Recording a Shakuhachi flute player at Urchin Studios, London

Listen to some of Watson’s unique sound collection at chriswatson.net and find a selection curated by Hole & Corner here.