A TRANSCENDENTAL TRIBUTE TO JAMES WATT
BRINGING HISTORY TO LIFE THROUGH SOUND
Watt’s Orbit is an immersive live surround sound performance by sonic artist Bobby Bird.
The composition has been created from detailed recordings of James Watt’s 250 year old engines, still in working order and housed in their original locations at Crofton Beam Engines in Wiltshire and Papplewick Pumping Station in Nottinghamshire. Additional recordings were made at the London Museum of Steam and Water.
Premiered in Watt’s final resting place, St Mary’s Church Handsworth in October 2016, and performed at St Mary’s Great Bedwyn Wiltshire in 2017, the piece will be developed for further for performances in 2019 – the year of James Watt’s bicentenary.
“Mesmeric experience – the ghosts have been released from the machine!”
Film Director, Coventry
“Excellent work – great to hear the engines in an artistic context.”
Director, Papplewick Pumping Station
“Like the film ‘Fantastic Voyage’ – but through a steam engine!”
Lecturer at City College Birmingham
“What an incredible sound installation, the sounds, the bass, the atmosphere, the precise composition, the visuals, the journey! A meeting of minds of two geniuses and an industrial sound bathing roller coaster!”
Sound Therapist, Birmingham
“Thanks again to everyone involved in setting this up. The sound quality was fantastic – beyond the beyond. Bobby Bird’s composition was one of the best pieces he has done, really moving.”
“A new experience for me. I FELT the water and the steam, and I thought the coal would cover me as it came down the chute – I had to open my eyes to make sure its wasn’t really happening!”
A Watt’s Orbit live concert is designed to be a performance ‘in the round’ – the artist performing from a central position, the audience surrounding the performer, encircled by an array of full range speakers.
The performance is suitable for presentation in a range locations, both indoor or outdoor. The audience can either be seated, or free to walk around.
Performance time: approximately 1 hour (including a period of silence at the start)
The 8.8 L-Acoustic’s system listed would be suitable for a medium sized venue, a larger system might be required for a bigger space.
Watt’s Orbit could also be presented as a generative multi-speaker installation, suitable for gallery / exhibition environments over a longer timescale.
About the artist
Bobby Bird was born in Handsworth, Birmingham. A self-taught musician he started playing guitar in bands from the age of fourteen. He first saw a Boulton and Watt engine at the Museum of Science and Industry on Newhall Street, where he often found it more interesting to spend his time than attending school. As well as an early interest in music, a fascination for engines and motorbikes led him to rebuild his first BSA motorcycle engine as teenager.
In addition to playing guitar professionally, he went on to develop an interest in sound production and electronic music composition, releasing a number of albums under the name Higher Intelligence Agency. These include two collaborative albums, Birmingham Frequencies and Polar Sequences with Norwegian composer Geir Jenssen (Biosphere), made using location recordings of Birmingham and Tromso respectively.
Site-specific sound works, often with an historical context, also became a feature of his multi-speaker sound installations and performances, with works developed from recording at locations such as the John Taylor Bell Foundry in Loughborough, The Edwardian Moseley Road Pools in Balsall Heath, Purpose Built at the London Taxi Company in Coventry, where Black Cabs are still hand built and, with The Sound Cafe, making location recordings of independent cafes around Birmingham, revisiting memories of growing up above a cafe.
EACH ENGINE WITH
ITS OWN SIGNATURE SOUND
SLOW GROOVES WITH
OF RHYTHM AND PULSE
– SUBSONIC TO ULTRA HIGH
THE HEART OF THE MACHINE
– A THOUSAND LITRES
After two successful testbed performances of Watt’s Orbit, at St Mary’s Church in Handsworth, and at St Mary’s Church in Great Bedwyn Wiltshire, Watt’s Orbit will continue to be developed during 2018, towards further performances and installations in 2019 – James Watt’s bicentenary.