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Be careful driving through North Miami between dusk and dawn later this month; you might get caught in a stranger's dream. At least that's what Gustavo Matamoros, director of the Thirteenth Subtropics New Music Festival, hopes will happen. Sound-crafter Matamoros joined visual artist Shahreyar Ataie in the installation Dreams Gathered, which will project the images and sounds of neighborhood dreams from facing storefronts on the 700 block of 125th Street.
"If you collect peoples' dreams in a community and throw them back in the air, through video and sound, it may help in trying to get people to understand each other," says Miami's biggest new-music booster, before succumbing to reality. "Which is unlikely, but in the world of art, why not?"
Just as in dreams, where unlikely roads arrive at impossible destinations, the Subtropics New Music Festival has set an improbable course since 1989. "I guess we don't know what we're doing, do we?" laughs Matamoros. "I like it that way. As an artist my interest is to put myself in a situation where I don't know anything, so I can learn something. I'm more like a fisherman, trying to fish for sound."
During the past thirteen years Subtropics has, often as not, been fishing for audiences as well. A John Cage concert filled the cavernous Cameo Theater in 1991, but attendance at other events has been hit or miss.
Shivering in the wide open space of the Miami Beach Botanical Garden as one of eighteen people who showed up for the mesmerizing Sephardic Duo Kol-Tof two weeks ago, I wonder what keeps people away. "Fear that there's no music," shrugs Matamoros. "I think fear is somewhat well founded if you follow the criteria of the average music critic, which is that music is supposed to have one function."
Eager to prove I'm no one-function critic, I ask what is the worst thing that can happen to a person listening to new music. "You could fall asleep," Matamoros jokes, then adds seriously: "The worst thing could be to shut down. In other words to begin to close your ear lids. To be overcome by fear, the fear of the unknown. To be afraid to jump. After all, jumping is not going to get you hurt."