“From the Mara to Monheim”, 2023
Grove at the Wanderparkplatz (hikers’ car park)
Here you will find a schedule of when to listen to which animal. We recommend going around the wooded area.
The project of the English musician and sound artist Chris Watson was based on the idea of a so-called inversion weather situation or reversal weather situation. This means that sound waves can be carried over long distances.
In Watson's thought experiment, the sounds of an equatorial soundscape from the Masai Mara, a nature reserve in Kenya, were carried by this natural phenomenon into a small forest near the old town in Monheim am Rhein.
Reversed weather occurs when the air temperature rises in altitude, causing colder air near the ground to be trapped by a warmer layer of air above. Under these conditions, sound waves are reflected from the boundary layer back to the ground, causing the sound to propagate much further than usual.
Starting at 8 a.m., loudspeakers hidden among the trees brought the Masai Mara nature reserve in Kenya to life. A chorus of lions, birds, wildebeests, vervet monkeys, African elephants and many more could be heard throughout the day in the wooded area near Monheim's old town.
Until eight o'clock in the evening, the sounds alternated between dramatic and action-packed phases and periods of apparent calm and silence.
The high daytime temperature of up to 40 °C in Kenya strongly influence the behavior of the animals, that in the midday heat only solo songs of insects could be heard from the forest floor. In the afternoon tropical thunderclouds and thunder roared through the forest. Hippos emerged from the riverbed and a pride of lions came out of their den.
Nearby, the calls of a group of spotted hyenas rang out, making them as much a part of an evening chorus as the fluttering of bats, the croaking of frogs, or the buzzing of insects. Then began the time when the predators go hunting for their prey.
The work celebrated the sounds of a distant landscape transposed to the local landscape of Monheim at exactly the same time of day. The audience was invited to take a walk in a familiar place while engaging with the soundtrack and the everyday drama of a distant and unfamiliar habitat.
Chris Watson, lives and works in Newcastle upon Tyne. He was a founding member of the influential experimental music group Cabaret Voltaire in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Since then, he has developed a special and passionate interest in recording the sounds of animals and habitats from around the world. His television work includes many broadcasts of the David Attenborough series “Life,” including “The Life of Birds,” which won a BAFTA Award for “Best Factual Sound” in 1996, and the BBC series “Frozen Planet,” which also won a BAFTA Award.
Watson has recorded or contributed to numerous BBC Radio 4 and World Service productions, including “The Wire,” for which he won the Broadcasting Press Guild’s Broadcaster of The Year Award. Watson has also received the Paul Hamlyn Composers Award. His installations have been commissioned by international institutions and festivals including the Sheffield Millennium Gallery, Opera North in Leeds, The National Gallery, London, The Louvre, Paris, the Aichi Triennial in Japan and Unsound in Krakow.