A TRANSCENDENTAL TRIBUTE TO JAMES WATT
BRINGING HISTORY TO LIFE THROUGH SOUND
Watt’s Orbit is an immersive multi-speaker live 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 at Papplewick Pumping Station in Nottinghamshire.
Premiered in Watt’s final resting place, St Mary’s Church Handsworth on 29th October 2016, Watt’s Orbit will be toured to selected venues around the UK in the years leading up to Watt’s Bicentenary in 2019
“Mesmeric experience – the ghosts have been released from the machine!”
Rebeka Tolley, Film Director, Coventry
“Excellent work, great to hear the engines in an artistic context”
Ashley Smart, Director, Papplewick Pumping Station, Northamptonshire
“Thank you for the fantastic sounds today. I love machines – their sounds and motions, and to be virtually placed inside one was a wonderful experience. The sounds moved very sensitively and appropriately to the subject matter, and the musical shape worked beautifully – easing us in to a long (but with variation) meditation, bringing us out again subtly.”
Sarah Farmer, Artist / Musician
“I really enjoyed the piece, thank you for inviting me to the event.”
Trevor Mathieson, Sound Designer / Black Audio Film Collective, London
“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!”
Soesen Edan, Sound Therapist, Birmingham
“Thank you for putting on such a special event. It was especially wonderful because I’ve worked at Papplewick. To hear it all in such astounding beautifully orchestrated clarity was wonderful. The candles, warmth, and cups of tea in the church made it a completely beautiful experience. A unique Birmingham moment.”
Sarah Miah, Curator, Birmingham
“Like the film ‘Fantastic Voyage’ – but through a steam engine!”
Patrick Faulkner, Lecturer at City College Birmingham
“I really enjoyed it, thank you. Very interesting rhythms”
Lekan Babalola, Jazz percussionist / musician
“One of the most moving performances – up there with the best of them. Feel like I was caressed on sea of Myrmidons with the jolly green giant stomping around.”
Nic Bliss, Head of Policy for the Confederation of Co-operative Housing
The above representation is an ideal layout for a venue with movable seating, the performer in a central position, with the audience seated facing outwards towards the surrounding circle of full range speakers.
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.
Performance time approx 1 hour.
Images of the preparation and performance at St Mary’s Church Handsworth.
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 Bolton 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
WITH SUBTLE CHANGES
OF RHYTHM AND PULSE
SUBSONIC TO ULTRA HIGH
THE HEART OF THE MACHINE
TWELVE REVOLUTIONS PER MINUTE
TWELVE BEATS PER MINUTE
A THOUSAND LITRES PER STROKE
EACH CYCLE UNIQUE
ITS ACCENTS VARIABLE
The concert venue has been chosen because of its close proximity to Crofton Beam Engines (less than 1.5 miles away) where, during the day, two beam engines, including a 200 year old Bolton & Watt, can be seen running on Crofton’s last ‘steaming weekend’ of the year. And, for those wishing to arrive early evening, or to stay on after the steaming before coming to the concert, the Engineman’s Rest Cafe Engine House and Micro Pub will be remaining open until 7.00pm for refreshments and viewing of the engine house.
Crofton Beam Engines, Crofton, Marlborough SN8 3DW