Of all earthly creatures, insects come the closest to resembling aliens: exoskeletons, multifaceted eyes, barbed legs, and an impenetrable collectiveness. Their sonic world is highlighted on Cross-Pollination. Central to the two tracks on this CD are recordings of insects by Chris Watson, renowned nature-sound recordist. Midnight at the Oasis is a condensed soundscape composed from the source recording made at a waterhole, spanning the hours between sundown and sunup, when the world is awash with insects going noisily about their business. It is an astonishing sound world that Watson has captured and compressed into a half hour of buzzing, clicks, rasps, and weird whooshes, with welcome spots of near silence in between.
Less satisfying is The Bee Symphony, a collaborative piece by Watson and Marcus Davidson. The latter wrote a choral score based on recordings Watson had made of bee activity in and around English-country-garden hives. It could have worked, had the singers managed to match the impersonal, forceful buzz of the swarms. Instead, they allowed emotion into their delivery and Davidson found he just had to come up with some clever structures. In spite of the CD’s title, the two entities—choir and bees—remain separate. The humans keep getting in the way of the animals. No news there, I’m afraid.