Watts Orbit

A sonic performance by Bobby Bird / Higher Intelligence Agency

An immersive experience featuring the elemental sounds and rhythms of four monumental steam driven beam engines built during the Industrial Revolution.

Designed by Scottish engineer / inventor James Watt and created in partnership with Mathew Bolton at the Soho Foundry in Smethwick, these immense coal fired engines used Watt’s invention of the separate condenser, an innovation which by enabling the engines to run more efficiently, has been credited with helping ignite the industrial revolution.

Capable of moving up to 1000 litres of water per stroke, beam engines were used for multiple purposes including pumping water from rivers to canals, from reservoirs to cities & floodwater from Cornish tin mines.

Sonic artist Bobby Bird of Higher Intelligence Agency has made detailed recordings of four of these engines, at Crofton Beam Engines in Wiltshire, Papplewick Pumping Station in Nottinghamshire, The Museum of Steam & Water in London, and Thinktank in Birmingham.

Using these recordings as raw material with which to explore and reveal the individual rhythms & pulses of each of the engines, he has created a powerful and unique spacial sound composition, taking the listener on a journey through the heart of the machines and the elemental forces that drive them.

Watt’s Orbit is presented through an octophonic sound system, using bespoke software for sound distribution, the loud speakers are played like instruments, while the audience is surrounded by a sonic circle of 3D sound.

Ready yourself for a deep listening experience, close your eyes if you wish, and prepare to be immersed in an ‘industrial sound bathing rollercoaster’ *
* Soesen Edan – Edan Sound

‘Like radiation from the big bang, the sounds of the industrial revolution reverberating through time’

A transcendental tribute to James Watt, bringing history to life through sound.


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