Caught by the River

Chris Watson Watch

Chris Watson | 26th May 2010

Chris Watson: Whispering in the Leaves. The Palm House, Kew Gardens, May 29 – September 5.

Press Release:
Chris Watson’s Whispering in the Leaves is an extraordinary sound installation, using recordings to transport us to the rainforests of South and Central America. Throughout the summer festival, Kew’s Palm House will be diffused with the dawn and dusk choruses of creatures native to these lush tropical landscapes.
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 to human ears. Diffused through 80 speakers, the installation features two sound pieces, Dawn and Dusk, which will be transmitted on the hour throughout the day – Dawn in the morning and Dusk in the afternoon. Each lasts 15-20 minutes – the approximate time it takes for the transitions between darkness and daylight in the dense tropical vegetation.

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 not yet seen. Chris will launch the Summer Festival at Kew with a live sound mix on 29 May at 1pm: an audio recording of a three-hour period across late afternoon, sunset and into the night will be compressed into around twenty minutes. Featuring recordings of a tropical thunderstorm and ending with the deep, lush sounds of the nocturnal insect chorus, the performance will create an intense auditory narrative for the audience.
(pic: Sean Thamer)

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

For more information on the events programme and to receive free Whispering in the Leaves ringtones especially created by Chris Watson, visit

Whispering in the Leaves is co-produced by Sound and Music and Forma.