IN SOME ways, it’s a bizarre career trajectory.

Chris Watson went from founding Cabaret Voltaire, one of British rock’s most discordant bands, to recording sounds from the natural world and working with Sir David Attenborough.

Once renowned for making loud, visceral guitar music, today he stresses the threat of sound pollution in the “frustratingly noisy island” we live on.

In another sense, though, Chris’s path makes sense. He was fascinated by the tones and rhythms of nature before Cabaret Voltaire were born in Sheffield in 1973, and the group were one of the first to incorporate field recordings into their songs.

Put simply, sound in all its forms has been the great passion of Chris’s life. His new installation – hosted in the high-tech auditorium of ACCA – is almost like a greatest hits show, gathering together the most extraordinary sounds that he has collected over his long career.

Starting and ending at Brighton beach, No Man’s Land is a 40-minute piece that takes the audience on a journey through the world’s oceans, featuring noises of orcas, humpback whales and coral reefs.

Having worked on BBC’s Frozen Planet, narrated by Sir David Attenborough, Chris is experienced in – and enthusiastic about – all things aqua.

“I’ve had an amazing journey of discovery in seas and oceans and I’ve realised they are the most-sound rich habitats we have,” he says. “I was keen to present them these sounds as I heard them.”

When we think of ocean sounds our minds might immediately flit to the more stereotypically meditative end of the spectrum, such as whale song. While Chris has waited months in remote icy spots to capture such noises – and takes great delight in playing them to his three-year old grandson – he says we can expect a wide range of tones in No Man’s Land.

“In some ways they are like sounds from another planet – not many people will recognise some of them. It’s a strange world because the ocean can be a very hostile place but also hauntingly beautiful.”

As you’d expect from a man who has devoted a large portion of his life to studying the natural world, Chris has some interesting theories on why we idealise certain sounds. As he says, many of us would opt for waves hitting a beach if we are asked to name a relaxing noise.

“We first learn to hear through a fluid in our mother’s womb,” he says, “and I think that’s one reason why he we find sounds like the ones you can find on Brighton seafront so rich and musical. In some strange way it’s a memory of how we first heard the world.”

Because of programmes like Frozen Planet and the more recent Blue Planet, more and more of us are taking an interest in nature.

In a bizarre way, some of the sounds Chris has recorded have made their way into the national consciousness. He says that while he’d still like to see more people exploring rural areas rather than watching television, the trend is positive. And he isn’t surprised how much the British public have taken these shows to their hearts.

“They’re beautifully crafted and take years to make,” he says. “Look at the awareness that was raised about plastics in the ocean in the last Blue Planet series.

“David did a piece on that and now everybody knows about it and it looks like something might be done about it. Who would have thought a natural history programme would have the power to change how people live and think about the way they use materials?”

As well as warning about the destructive impact of noise pollution under the surface – and especially “Russians setting off huge explosions looking for oil”, which is killing fish and harming large whales – Chris strongly believes our society in general is too loud.

“It’s bad for all of us,” he says. “We need an absence of noise for our psychological health and wellbeing but we’re bombarded by sirens, televisions, radios, social media.”

His solution doesn’t require a radical lifestyle overhaul. We simply need to take more notice of what is around us and find tranquility where we can.

“I would encourage more people to get out to nature, even if it’s just Brighton beach when it’s quiet,” he says. “You need to get to the beach at 5am.”

See you there and then, Brightonians.

No Man’s Land
Attenborough Centre For The Creative Arts, University Of Sussex, March 27 to April 13, Various times. To book a timeslot visit or call 01273 678822