On a chilly night, during the Second Saturday Art Walk, in a dark yard beside Dorsch Gallery in Wynwood, four men sit at tables arranged in a square, their faces lit by the glare of their lap-top screens. All around them sounds twitter, gurgle, buzz and flow from four large speakers, as if the garden had suddenly been inhabited by electronic birds and insects, leaves and water.
David Behrman, one of the four musicians, pulls out a small flashlight and points it at a console lined with knobs, then clicks one of the colorful icons glowing on his screen. He sits back and listens, arms folded on his lap, like a chess player waiting for his opponent to make the next move.
What the few stragglers who wander into the garden probably don't know, is that the man with the wavy white hair and black leather jacket is himself an icon.
In the late sixties, Behrman championed avant garde music for the masses, producing a series of landmark recordings for Columbia's "In Our Time" series that that featured composers such as John Cage, Terry Riley and Karlheinz Stockhausen. And he was a founding member of the Sonic Arts Union, a collective of experimental musicians that created some of the seminal works in the electronic music cannon.
The four men click on a key or move the mouse around and listen as the sounds change with their touch. Duck calls punctuate the waves of static, and suddenly we are in a pond somewhere in the Midwest, the sun slowly setting on a reed-lined horizon. Occasionally, a natural sound intrudes - the footsteps on the leaves as a curious passerby strolls into the yard, an airplane passing overhead.
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In the distance, a techno beat from the street party unfolding during the Second Saturday art walk blends in, an unexpected note in the gurgling, buzzing symphony that for four hours supplants the sounds of nature.
Little do the revelers know that the man who led the revolution that paved the way for the techo and ambient sounds wafting through the crowded streets is performing for practically no one in a garden just a block away.
Fortunately for us, Gustavo Matamoros, the leader of Subtropics who produced the concert, is recording every sound.